KUALA LUMPUR • Sporting history for Singapore was created last night as the country surpassed its best gold-medal haul at an away SEA Games, with swimmers Quah Jing Wen, Amanda Lim and the men's 4x100m medley relay team taking its tally to 46 golds.
The nation's previous best overseas showing was 43 titles at the 2007 edition in Korat, Thailand.
Fittingly, for a country with bold ambitions, it was 16-year-old Jing Wen who delivered the 44th gold when she won the women's 100m butterfly final.
The bar was then raised by Lim's victory in the 50m freestyle - the fifth straight time she has won the event - before Olympic champion Joseph Schooling teamed up with Quah Zheng Wen, Darren Lim and Lionel Khoo for the final gold. They set a new Games and national record of 3min 37.46sec for good measure.
Not everything went Singapore's way. The men's table tennis team, widely expected to make it 47, were shocked 1-3 by Vietnam in the final.
But it was still a day to savour as Jing Wen described crossing the 43-gold landmark as "insane".
Team Singapore's chef de mission Milan Kwee said: "Surpassing the best away medal mark is certainly exceptional. Over the last two weeks, our athletes have worked and fought hard for every point and every second that matters.
"This milestone is testament to their efforts, and we hope to continue to bring out the best in them for the rest of the Games to win more medals for Singapore."
While the bulk of the 38-sports roster in Malaysia has been completed, Singapore can expect to pad up the tally before Wednesday's closing ceremony. Sailing, a sport the nation traditionally excels in, ends on Tuesday and more golds are expected in waterskiing, speed skating and figure-skating.
Should Singapore cross the half-century mark, it would be only the third time after the record 84 golds in 2015 and 50 in 1993, both when the biennial Games were held on home soil.
Singapore has a record 568-strong overseas contingent competing in 35 sports in Malaysia.
It is also a largely young and inexperienced squad, with 308 Games debutants, while a total of 75 are aged 20 or younger.
While key sports like swimming have delivered 19 golds, there have been surprise wins by the men's bowling and golf teams, synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh, high jumper Michelle Sng, teen fencers Amita Berthier and Lau Ywen, and wushu exponent Jowen Lim.
In a Facebook post, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu lauded the athletes and said: "This latest achievement shows how much we've grown as a sporting nation. It builds on our best-ever SEA Games performance when we were hosts two years ago. And it's only made possible by the hard work and perseverance of our Team Singapore athletes, plus the incredible dedication of the team around the team... We shall not rest on our laurels. Let's continue to push on and end this Games on a high. Go Team Singapore!"