Asian Winter Games: Largest Singapore team to take to the ice

Short-track speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey likely for the Asian Winter Games

Lucas Ng was one of the competitors at the Asian Winter Games in 2011, taking part in the 500m and 1,000m short-track skating events.
Lucas Ng was one of the competitors at the Asian Winter Games in 2011, taking part in the 500m and 1,000m short-track skating events. PHOTO: SINGAPORE ICE SKATING ASSOCIATION

Singapore is set to send its biggest contingent yet to a major winter multi-sport event, when the 8th Asian Winter Games (AWG) take place in Sapporo next year.

The Straits Times understands that about 25 athletes across three sports will fly the nation's flag in Japan at the Feb 19-26 event, following a selection meeting held by the Singapore National Olympic Council yesterday.

This will be the second time Singapore is represented at the quadrennial Games, and there is a marked increase in contingent size from its 2011 debut in Kazakhstan, when the Republic fielded just one athlete in short-track speed skating.

It is understood that this time, Singapore will also be represented in figure skating, while a squad of 22 will form the men's ice hockey team.

When contacted, officials from both the Singapore Ice Hockey Association (Siha) and the Singapore Ice Skating Association (Sisa) said they had yet to hear official word.

However, a first major Games outing would represent a huge milestone for the sport, said Siha president Alphonsus Joseph, even if the team will not be in contention for a medal.

The team - whose trip to the AWG would be self-funded - are likely to play in a lower division, apart from continental bigwigs like Japan, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan.

He said: "It would be a good eye-opener, especially since we have a couple of younger and newer players, for them to see how the top teams in Asia play as well as train.

"We've gone to international events like the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup, but nothing on the scale of the Asian Games."

A likely match-up against Thailand within the same division, in particular, would be a good test ahead of the IIHF Challenge Cup in March and next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, when winter sports make their debut at the biennial competition. The Thais are expected to be favourites then.

Sisa said it had yet to be informed officially and preferred to reserve comment until then.

For the short-track speed skaters and figure skaters, competition in Sapporo will be world-class, with Japan, South Korea and China the traditional world powerhouses.

The Asian Winter Games, which began in 1986, are also expected to be a timely tune-up for athletes from all three sports ahead of the SEA Games.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'Largest S'pore team to take to the ice'. Subscribe