Asean Schools Games 2018

Birthday boy Josh delivers team gold

Josh Chua returning a backhand during his 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6 win over Thailand's Supakron Pankhaoyoy in the final match of the Asean Schools Games boys' table tennis team final in Klang. Both the paddlers and the girls' artistic gymnastics team r
Josh Chua returning a backhand during his 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6 win over Thailand's Supakron Pankhaoyoy in the final match of the Asean Schools Games boys' table tennis team final in Klang. Both the paddlers and the girls' artistic gymnastics team retained their gold medals from last year.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

Teenager keeps cool in table tennis decider; Kampton, Mikkel and gymnasts also shine

Birthdays are usually about receiving, whether a cake, presents or good wishes.

Celebrating his 17th yesterday at the Asean Schools Games (ASG) in Malaysia, paddler Josh Chua elected to deliver the gold-medal clinching performance in the boys' team final instead.

The Year 5 Raffles Institution student helped Singapore retain the team gold won last year on home soil by beating Thailand's Supakron Pankhaoyoy 11-9, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6 in the rubber tie at the SJK (C) Kong Hoe school premises in Klang.

The veteran of three previous ASGs seemed to radiate calm in a roller-coaster battle with the Thais that saw Singapore go 2-0 up before dropping the next two matches.

But, a moment deep in the final set, when he thrust his palms downward in the widely recognised "keep-cool" gesture, gave an insight into how much effort it took to remain that way.

"I just kept telling myself not to think too much and not be too bothered with the result whether win or lose," said Josh, who also won gold in the boys' doubles last year.

ICING ON THE CAKE

I've gotten used to celebrating my birthday during the ASG since Secondary 1 but this is the first time I've won a gold on the actual day itself.

JOSH CHUA, who accounted for two of Singapore's three points in the boys' table tennis team final.

"I've gotten used to celebrating my birthday during the ASG since Secondary 1 but this is the first time I've won a gold on the actual day itself."

In a tactical move, the Thais had changed their usual order of play for the final, choosing to deploy their No. 2 singles player Supakron in the first match against Singapore's No. 1 singles player Koen Pang, and their No. 1 Yanapong Panagitgun against Josh in the second.

Koen, 16, beat Supakron 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 in the opener but the Thais' gamble then backfired, with Josh defeating Yanapong 14-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7 as Yanapong's frustration at Josh's patient approach got the better of him. "We know each other's playing style quite well and in fact we just played twice at the SEA Junior & Cadet Table Tennis tournament earlier this month, so my plan was to not allow him to attack first," said Josh.

The boys looked well on the way to delivering Singapore's first gold at the 10th ASG, but Dominic Koh lost 11-9, 11-4, 11-9 to Tananan Tantakool in the third match before Under-18 world No. 14 Yanapong beat Koen in a tight affair 6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-7 to set up the decider.

The girls' team were outclassed 3-0 in the final by Vietnam.

With the boys' table tennis team taken the distance, Youth Olympics Games-bound high jumper Kampton Kam won Singapore's first gold of these Games with his 2.10m effort. More importantly, it broke both the national schools (2.06m) and Under-20 (2.08m) records.

"It feels surreal and it hasn't sunk in yet. I wasn't expecting to win a medal. My target was to jump 2m or more for this competition," said the 17-year-old.

Swimmer Mikkel Lee, 16, who won four golds and a silver at the last ASG, picked up his first gold of these Games in the 100m freestyle in 50.72sec.

The girls' artistic gymnastics team also retained the gold won at last year's Games.

After the second day of competition, Singapore's medal tally stands at four golds, three silvers and five bronzes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2018, with the headline 'Birthday boy Josh delivers team gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe