SEA Games: Joel Tseng battles through pain to win Singapore's first medal in kurash

Joel Tseng's grit and determination were rewarded as he clinched Singapore's first medal in kurash at the SEA Games in San Fernando City.
Joel Tseng's grit and determination were rewarded as he clinched Singapore's first medal in kurash at the SEA Games in San Fernando City.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

CLARK - Landing hard on the competition mat on Monday (Dec 2), kurash fighter Joel Tseng felt a sharp pain as his opponent, V Catipon Lloyd Dennis of the Philippines, fell on top of him.

While he held on to win the men's under-73kg bout (3-0), a check by the team physiotherapist revealed a suspected fracture in his right collar bone.

With two more bouts left in the five-man round-robin contest, the 24-year old was ready to throw in the towel. But he had the injury taped, dug deep and fought on, winning the next bout 3-0 against Thailand's Natee Chokchiewchan before he was routed 10-0 by Ramadhan Ryan of Indonesia in the last match.

The Singaporean athlete's grit and determination were rewarded at the Laus Group Events Centre in San Fernando City, as he finished second in the group (two wins, two losses) to clinch Singapore's first medal in kurash - a silver - at the SEA Games.

Kurash is among eight sports that are making their maiden appearance in the Philippines alongside breaking (dancesport), e-sports, beach handball, jiu-jitsu, skateboarding, surfing and underwater hockey.

"The adrenaline kicked in during my second bout and I couldn't feel it but the pain kicked in after that," he said after the victory ceremony.

The right-handed Tseng, who will undergo an X-ray on his collarbone when he returns home on Tuesday, added: "It was very hard for me to raise my right arm, and I lost a 'weapon' in my arm. I thought of stopping but I was okay after taping the injury but it was pretty bad after the third round."

A former judoka who competed at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, Tseng switched to kurash a year ago after his friends introduced him to the sport. Kurash is a traditional folk wrestling sport with roots in Central Asia and its objective is to throw opponents on the ground on their back by grabbing the towel around their waist.

"I'm very happy to win a silver. I was hoping to get the gold but after meeting the Vietnamese (V Vu Ngoc Son, 10-0), he deserves the gold," said the Singaporean, who is pursuing a banking and finance degree at the Singapore Institute of Management.

"I hope this medal will help us promote the sport and we can get better exposure and more athletes."

Agreeing, Singapore's kurash team manager Elisha Sabai pointed out that there are currently about 10 kurash athletes back home. With kurash making its debut at the Asian Games in Indonesia last year, he is also hoping for Singapore's fighters to qualify for the Asiad in Hangzhou in 2022.

He added: "Hopefully we can continue at the next SEA Games and grow the sport as there is potential in it - we sent two athletes here and got one medal."

Singapore's other kurash representative, Tay Wei Huah finished fifth in the men's U-66kg after losing all four bouts yesterday.