SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Sports officials challenge Singapore athletes to build on games success and scale new heights

Sports officials challenge Singapore athletes to scale new heights in Asia and the world

The Singapore contingent at the Closing Ceremony at the Bukit Jalil Stadium. The Republic had 303 SEA Games debutants in its 560-strong contingent and 71 first-timers won medals in Malaysia. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Even as Team Singapore celebrate a record-breaking overseas performance following the 57-gold haul at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, there are new summits waiting to be climbed.

Success at the regional level - Singapore finished fourth overall behind Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in the 11-nation standings - must be carried forward onto the continental and world stage, senior sports officials said yesterday.

The Commonwealth Games in Australia's Gold Coast start next April and the Asian Games in Indonesia will be held next August.

The Republic's best results from both were 10 Commonwealth titles in 2010 and eight golds from the 2006 Asiad.

Surpassing both benchmarks is the next target, noted Singapore Sports Institute chief Toh Boon Yi.

"We always want to do better whether in terms of quality or quantity," he said. "They reflect aspects of our sporting ambition."

For the past two weeks, the aspirations were to better the previous best at an away Games - 43 golds from the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand.Only twice before had Singapore reached the half-century mark (50 golds in 1993, 84 in 2015, both Games on home soil).

Games come to a colourful close: Spectators cheering during the closing ceremony for the 29th SEA Games at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur last night. The colourful affair signalled the end of the 12-day event. Nearly 5,000 of the region's best sportsmen and women had gathered to do battle in the Malaysian capital. Hosts Malaysia were crowned the overall champions, topping the 11-nation medal tally with their collection of 145 golds. Singapore recorded their best away Games performance, earning 57 golds, 58 silvers and 73 bronzes. The results had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying in an Instagram post: "The future is bright for Singapore sports." The Philippines will host the next edition in 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The 57 golds came from 16 sports, the second highest spread in Singapore's history at the biennial Games. In 2015, 18 sports accounted for the record 84 golds.

A 14-gold improvement from 2007 was a "brilliant display" and "one performance Singaporeans can be proud of", said chef de mission Milan Kwee.

He singled out breakthrough golds by male athletes in cycling, golf and squash (all ending droughts of 20 years or more) while cricketers and figure skater Yu Shuran bagged golds as their sports made their Games debut.

Crucially, Olympic sports like swimming (19 golds), sailing (four golds of which three were from Olympic classes), shooting and fencing (two golds each) did well.

Toh said: "These are examples where we have strength and depth and are on the right path."

Singapore had 303 SEA Games debutants in its 560-strong contingent and 71 of these first-timers won medals. Collectively, the team set 15 Games records, 13 national records and achieved 29 personal bests.

Several budding stars, including swimmer Quah Jing Wen, 16, shooter Martina Veloso, 17, and fencers Amita Berthier, 16, and Lau Ywen, 17, showed their mettle in a high-pressure environment.

It was important not to get carried away though, reminded Singapore National Olympic Council secretary-general Chris Chan.

He said: "The SEA Games are the entry level of major Games. Some events here, there are only four competitors. But it gives athletes new to a Games good experience which they can fall back on to prepare for the next level, which is even harsher."

The highs were tempered by some disappointing results from football, table tennis, bowling and silat while even athletics, despite two golds and several outstanding individual performances, was not spared.

Toh said: "There are 46 track and field golds. We won two so it's clear we're not pulling our weight there and need to capture a larger market share. This doesn't happen overnight though, it takes multiple Games cycles."

Taking all this into account, Kwee said, Singapore received an A- grade overall. He added: "We hope their results here will be an indication of bigger things to come."

The Games drew to a close at the Bukit Jalil Stadium last night in a flurry of bright lights, music and merriment as host Malaysia celebrated its best performance, topping the medal table with 145 golds, 92 silvers and 86 bronzes.

Malaysia's previous best result was at the 2001 Games, which it also hosted. Then, it topped the standings with 111 golds, 75 silvers and 85 bronzes.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak officially declared the Games closed, after which the Games' cauldron was extinguished.

The Philippines will host the next Games in 2019, after u-turning on an earlier decision to give up the hosting rights.

•Additional reporting by Nicole Chia

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline SEA Games: Sports officials challenge Singapore athletes to build on games success and scale new heights. Subscribe