Sailing: Young sailors ready to be at SEA

Radiance Koh (bottom row, far left) and Max Teo (bottom row, fourth from left) are among the 13 team members making their debut in Singapore's 21-strong SEA Games sailing team this year. The average age of the squad is 17.
Radiance Koh (bottom row, far left) and Max Teo (bottom row, fourth from left) are among the 13 team members making their debut in Singapore's 21-strong SEA Games sailing team this year. The average age of the squad is 17.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

S'pore team unfazed by lack of experience at KL Games, even with 13 debutants

National sailor Radiance Koh's first competitive regatta four years ago did not get off to an ideal start, as a collision with another boat resulted in a hole in her boat, leaving the young sailor flustered and upset.

Yet, she won the regatta, after encouragement from her coach helped her focus on doing her best and forgetting about the hole.

The 13-year-old hopes this resilience will stay with her as she competes in the Optimist class in her maiden SEA Games later this month in Kuala Lumpur.

"My target for the SEA Games is to try my best and not overthink, and to recover from my setbacks as I did before," said Radiance on the sidelines of the Singapore sailing team presentation at Monti at Fullerton Pavilion yesterday.

The Nanyang Girls' High School student is the youngest sailor in this year's 21-strong SEA Games team, and one of 13 making their debut.

The Republic is fielding a young team with an average age of 17 at the Aug 19-30 SEA Games sailing event in Langkawi, and SingaporeSailing president Ben Tan said this points to the "strength of the pipeline", as the national sports association (NSA) had held open selection trials for the Games.

Singapore topped the sailing medal table with 10 golds at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil.

While Tan did not reveal medal targets for the upcoming Games, he said that the association is not concerned about the sailors' youth and relative inexperience.

"The experience required for tactics alone takes time and there's no short cut," added the former SEA Games and Asian Games champion. "Because the runway is very long, my expectations are set accordingly. These sailors are promising... we have to give them time to grow."

For debutant Max Teo, whose first major competition was last month's Optimist World Championships in Thailand, the SEA Games is a chance to apply the lessons he has learnt.

"We need to be well-prepared. Our coaches have been putting in a lot of time and work to improve our speed so that we have a better chance of being in front," added the 14-year-old.

At the Optimist World Championships, Singapore finished behind Malaysia in the team racing event and were ranked below Thailand in the Nations Cup, where the results of each country's top four sailors were taken into account. The two countries will be tough rivals for the Republic's sailors in every class.

At the May 6-13 470 European Championships in Monaco, Yukie Yokoyama and Cheryl Teo finished 32nd in the women's race, behind Malaysia's Nuraisyah Jamil and Ashikin Sayed (27th). In the men's race, fellow Singaporeans Daniel Toh and Xavier Ng were 44th overall, while Faizal Norizan and Syukri Aziz of Malaysia were 21st.

The June 7-11 National Sailing Championships here also saw Malaysia's Nur Shazrin Mohamad Latif and Ahmad Latif Khan Sabri Khan occupy the top two spots in the Laser Radial fleet, with Singaporeans Lu Junrui and Bernie Chin third and fourth respectively.

But Tan maintained that these results are no cause for worry, saying: "We take results at benchmarking events like that seriously and to us it is a wake-up call and a learning point. As a competitive sailor, what happened before doesn't really matter, but what is important is we learn from what's happened."

He believes a "tough job" awaits Singapore's sailors in Malaysia, as the latter has developed its sailing ecosystem well over the years.

Laser standard sailor Ryan Lo, a silver medallist in 2015, is gunning for golds in both his events (team and individual).

"This is a benchmark to see how much I've improved since the last SEA Games, and it's also to help me prepare for future Games like next year's Asian Games and the Olympic qualifiers," said the 20-year-old.

"I'm confident that if I focus on my own training, I'll be able to perform at my fullest potential."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2017, with the headline 'Young sailors ready to be at SEA'. Print Edition | Subscribe