Commonwealth Games: Paddlers and shooters to lead Singapore's gold hunt once more

Shooter Martina Veloso said: "My training has gone well and I'm feeling good. The team is relaxed and we want to do well."
Shooter Martina Veloso said: "My training has gone well and I'm feeling good. The team is relaxed and we want to do well."ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO

But chef de mission Chay is also hoping for ‘some surprises’ from the other sports

The absence of Joseph Schooling in Australia has left Team Singapore looking to familiar sources for gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, which start with tonight's opening ceremony.

While the 100m butterfly Olympic champion's form has been inconsistent of late, Schooling's pedigree meant he would have been among the favourites for his pet event on the Gold Coast.

Instead, it is left to the Republic's paddlers and shooters to do the heavy lifting. Both sports have combined to win an incredible 24 Commonwealth titles from the past three Games and should increase that haul over the next fortnight.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association has targeted a clean sweep of all seven events at the Oxenford Studios, while shooters Jasmine Ser (50m rifle three positions) and Teo Shun Xie (10m air pistol) are aiming to extend their reign as Commonwealth champions.

Fellow shooter Martina Veloso, who beat Ser to win the 10m air rifle event at last year's SEA Games and bagged two bronzes at last October's Commonwealth Shooting Championships, a test event for the Games, also fancies her chances.

The 18-year-old said: "My training has gone well and I'm feeling good. The team is relaxed and we want to do well."

Singapore chef de mission Mark Chay is leading the 60-athlete contingent, which is relatively inexperienced at this level.

Two-thirds, or 40 of them, are making their Commonwealth Games debut. This includes all four para-athletes - the 2002 Manchester Games were the first major multi-sport event to include para-athletes in the main sports programme - with Paralympic medallists Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh not making the trip Down Under as their events were not offered.

While the paddlers and shooters are under pressure to deliver medals, Chay stressed this did not alleviate the expectations on the other nine sports. He said: "Everyone is here on merit and they want to do well.

"For a lot of them, this is a step up in terms of the level of opposition, but I'm hopeful we'll see some surprises from our athletes."

Schooling won a silver in the 100m fly at Glasgow 2014, which was Singapore's first medal in swimming at the quadrennial meet. A repeat of a podium finish from the trio of Darren Lim, Quah Ting Wen and Roanne Ho at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre is unlikely.

Ho, however, believes she is in the right form to break her 50m breaststroke national record of 31.29sec and record a sub-31 swim, which would make her a podium contender.

Only the top three finishers at the 2014 edition managed to break 31sec in the final.

Stephan Widmer, national head coach and performance director, said: "The swimmers are as ready as the preparations have allowed them to be... One of the main aims here is... for them to come back from the Games better, with more experience for the future races in mind, especially with the Asian Games coming up later this year."

The Singapore Badminton Association is also looking long term. The 10-player squad, with an average age of just 22.1 is the youngest the country has sent to the Games.

The national shuttlers have won medals at every Games since 2002. Four years ago, now-retired Derek Wong (men's singles) and men's doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart won silvers and Singapore bagged a bronze in the mixed team event.

World No. 103 and Games debutante Grace Chua is under no illusions about the task ahead but added: "I am very excited because it is one of the biggest Games that I have been to; I am a bit nervous to be on such a big stage and I am hoping to do well.

"We are prepared and confident but, at the same time we cannot be overconfident."

Additional reporting by Lim Say Heng

OPENING CEREMONY

Mediacorp okto, Wednesday, 6pm