Asian Games: Mervyn Toh wins first canoeing medal for Singapore with K1 200m bronze

Mervyn Toh finished third in a time of 36.314 seconds at the Jakabaring Sports City in Palembang, Indonesia. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ TEAM SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Mervyn Toh clinched Singapore's first-ever Asian Games medal in canoeing on Saturday (Sept 1) with the bronze in the men's K1 200m.

Toh, 26, finished third in a time of 36.314 seconds at the Jakabaring Sports City in Palembang, Indonesia, behind South Korea's Cho Gwang-Hee (gold) and Sergii Tokarnytskyi of Kazakhstan (silver).

Said Toh, who qualified fourth for the final: "I knew the top two (Cho and Tokarnytskyi) in the other heat were very fast but canoeing is an outdoor sport and you can't really compare the timings.

"Today the conditions were quite good. The water was quite flat and the headwind wasn't as strong as yesterday. This was better for me because my opponents are heavier and they have an advantage when the wind is blowing against all of us (during the race)."

The 2015 SEA Games gold medallist executed his race plan to perfection.

"Because I start quick I was expecting to be in front at the halfway mark. So then it was a matter of not getting too excited and staying calm because I knew my opponents would start catching up in the second half," he explained.

Compatriot Stephenie Chen narrowly missed out on a bronze of her own earlier in the women's K1 200m.

The 26-year-old (43.162) was beaten to the podium by Japan's Yuka Ono (43.092) by 0.07 of a second.

Chen was in a philosophical mood after her race, saying: "It was close but we've raced each other a lot of times and over the years it's been back and forth, back and forth. Wins and losses, it all adds up.

"My biggest takeaway from this Games would be to focus on myself. It's very easy to be distracted during a 200m race. It's so close, it's so fast and every second, every stroke matters. There is really nothing you can do about anyone else but yourself and I think that's really important, to know yourself best and do the best race you can do no matter what."

National canoeing coach Balazs Babella was as disappointed as his charge Chen, but also emphasised the importance of Toh's medal for the team and sport in Singapore.

"You might think I'm very happy that we won a medal but I'm not satisfied because I believe in my athletes and that they were ready to get medals in other events as well," said the Hungarian, who is marking his 10th year in Singapore.

Asked what he thought of both Toh's and Chen's performances the former K4 200m world champion admitted that he had been too nervous to watch the races.

"I still haven't seen their races. I turned towards Steph's race for one second and she was fourth by less than one tenth of a second so I decided not to watch Mervyn's race at all. And it worked, we came in third," said Babella.

"(But) this medal is everything to us. Fourth place is still beautiful but to be on the medal tally, that was our aim and what we were all fighting for. We had to give back something to SSI (the Singapore Sport Institute) to show that we deserve the kind of support they have provided us. It's not only Mervyn's medal but the whole team's medal."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.