The Straits Times says

Saluting verve of Team Singapore

Singaporeans deserve to savour the medals won by their athletes at the SEA Games - a haul hugely disproportionate to the size of the nation. The success shows that excellence in sports is possible despite innate limitations and even the unwanted hurdle before the Games, when Singapore Athletics officials chose to squabble rather than give succour. Team Singapore athletes came home from Malaysia with their best away Games medal tally. That speaks volumes about their vim and vigour, and their fighting spirit.

Quite apart from mainstays like swimming, table tennis and men's water polo, other areas yielded medals too, such as bowling, golf, cycling, cricket and figure skating. The range of winning sports and the high level of participation - 560 national athletes went to the Games, Singapore's biggest away contingent - were enough to make a sports leader declare that "sport is growing in the lives of Singaporeans". Such optimism was fuelled by Olympian Joseph Schooling's historic gold, won at Rio last year, and earlier, by Team Singapore's record 84 golds at the SEA Games held here in 2015.

The sporting momentum will have to be maintained for a good showing next year at the Asian Games in Indonesia and the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Looking ahead to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the Paris Olympics in 2024, the hope is that the achievements of today's athletes will inspire young Singaporeans, perhaps now still in primary school, to also dare to shoot for gold.

Alongside the quest for excellence, they should also emulate the sportsmanship that some Singaporeans have displayed in the heat of competition. Runner Soh Rui Yong's gesture of offering a drink to his marathon rival Agus Prayogo was a small one but it was gratefully acknowledged by the Indonesian after he had missed his own bottle at a hydration point. Sport is not just about winning medals, of course, but also respect when competing alongside regional peers.

Flush with achievement, one should not overlook what it takes to ensure sporting glory does not slip away. Sport Singapore chief Lim Teck Yin was right to point out that troubled national sports associations "need to take a hard look inwards" as regional rivals are not standing still - indeed, some are closing the gap in lynchpin sports like table tennis and water polo.

To gain that excruciating edge over others at the top of their game, national athletes will need unstinting support at different levels. While theirs is a lonely obsession to defy the limits of endurance to set records, it is the roar of their name by millions that can make all the difference between a win and also ran. Most of all, they should be imbued with pride in donning the nation's colours to win for Singapore too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2017, with the headline 'Saluting verve of Team Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe