SEA Games: First hurrah for Toh Lian Han, last hurrah for Aloysius Yapp (for now)

Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp competing in the nine-ball pool doubles final against
Myanmar’s Aung Moe Thu and Maung Maung as partner Toh Lian Han looks on.
Singapore won 9-3.
Singapore’s Aloysius Yapp competing in the nine-ball pool doubles final against Myanmar’s Aung Moe Thu and Maung Maung as partner Toh Lian Han looks on. Singapore won 9-3. PHOTO: HUAN XIAO LONG/SPORT SINGAPORE

This time next week, Aloysius Yapp will be swopping his pool cue for a rifle as he enlists for National Service. But before joining up for basic military training, the 21-year-old bade cue sports a temporary goodbye in style by winning the SEA Games nine-ball pool doubles medal.

Yapp, alongside fellow Singaporean Toh Lian Han, beat Myanmar's Aung Moe Thu and Maung Maung 9-3 in the final at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday evening.

The duo's victory secured the Republic's first gold medal in pool since Chan Keng Kwang won the men's singles in 2005 in Manila.

Said Yapp: "It is an especially sweet feeling because in the previous SEA Games, I didn't perform that well."

Two years ago, he failed to make it past the quarter-final stage in the singles, and could only manage a bronze in the doubles alongside Toh.

He added: "This time round, I told myself to just enjoy the competition and not to put so much pressure on myself to perform.

"I was going to do my best at that point of time and hope that everything else runs smoothly."

For 45-year-old Toh, it was a case of "seventh time lucky".

Yesterday's victory was the veteran's first SEA Games gold medal since making his debut at the biennial event in 2005, when he won a bronze.

He said: "The past six times I've played doubles (at the Games), it has always been bronze or silver, losing to Philippines - it's always Philippines.

"This time we finally beat them in the semis.

"And to finally get the gold, I'm speechless, I'm really happy."

The pair narrowly overcame defending champions Philippines 9-8 in a tight semi-final on Wednesday.

"Definitely I feel like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. After all my years of playing, it means that I can finally call myself a gold medallist," Toh added.

This is the Republic's second cuesports gold at the Games, after Chan and Tey Choon Kiat won the men's doubles snooker event on Wednesday.

Said Cuesports Singapore honorary secretary Victor Yeong: "The golds mean the world to the association and the way we won made it even more satisfying."

Singapore has never won more than two golds in cuesports, and with 2015 double-gold medallist Peter Gilchrist to play in the English billiards singles today, the Republic's chances for a record-breaking Games are looking up.

"The hard work has paid off and we look forward to more golds in the remaining days of competition. It could be our best showing in SEA Games history," Yeong added.

Singapore won two cuesports golds at the 2009 and 2015 Games.

For Yapp, records aside, he hopes that the gold medal could convince the authorities to allow him to train and compete while serving NS.

He said: "I hope that with the gold medal, I am able to come out (during NS) and practise more and also participate in overseas tournaments."

That said, the 2014 world junior champion is looking forward to donning green army fatigues.

"It's a good two-year break for me as well. Maybe during these two years, I can refresh myself, practice harder and look forward to the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'First hurrah for Toh, last hurrah for Yapp (for now)'. Print Edition | Subscribe