SHAH ALAM, MALAYSIA - Being a student-athlete implies that there is as much learning going on as there is competing. This was borne out admirably by Singapore's trio of gold medallists on Wednesday (July 25), the Asean Schools Games' (ASG) final day of competition.
Bairavarasu Rutvik Rau got things started by clinching the Republic's first ASG squash title, beating Malaysia's Wee Ming Hock 11-6, 11-5, 3-11, 10-12, 14-12 in the boys' singles final.
His win prevented a clean sweep of all seven events by hosts and regional powerhouses Malaysia. Squash was making its ASG debut.
"It was kind of just carrying on the momentum for me, as I was fired up after I beat the Malaysian top seed (Adam Agan Aziz) in the semi-final. Even though I threw away a 2-0 lead (in the final) I just told myself to stay calm, listen to the advice of my coaches and friends," said the 18-year-old.
Boys' coach Au Yeong Pak Lam lauded his charge's maturity: "He used to be a very temperamental player who argued with referees all the time but in the last two games he managed to keep his composure and play a wise, thinking game."
Swimmer Mikkel Lee, 16, had to deal with being out of his comfort zone competing in Malaysia but still matched his haul of four gold medals and a silver from last year's Games on home soil, punctuating his campaign with a dominant swim in his last individual event.
The Year 4 Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student stormed home in the 50m freestyle in a meet record of 23.28sec, 0.76sec ahead of runner-up Ravipon Sangaworawong (24.04) of Thailand. Team-mate Gabriel Foo was third in 24.06.
Mikkel said: "I wasn't too happy with my 50m backstroke time in the morning heats so that fired me up for the 50m free. It was about making a statement, that I'm here and I want to do well.
"This ASG has been a learning experience. There was some stuff that took some getting used to, like how I had difficulty sleeping when I first got here in the hotel bed."
There was vindication for Jamie Koo as well after playing bridesmaid twice in the 50m and 100m butterfly, as she smashed a meet record of her own in the 50m back (30.20) to take the gold.
"I was a bit too stressed the previous two races because in my mind I kept thinking that I must get the gold. I was like that too during my first SEA Games (also in Malaysia) last year," said the 17-year-old.
"So, learning from past mistakes, I was a lot more relaxed for the 50m back and accepting of whatever result I would get. That makes a difference especially in the 50m events because if you are too tense you can't speed up enough."
Singapore finished fourth in the medal standings with 13 golds, 16 silvers and 22 bronzes. Hosts Malaysia (37-34-32) were top followed by Indonesia (31-36-30) and Thailand (19-21-31).
The Games end on Thursday with a cultural programme for the student-athletes followed by the closing ceremony.