SINGAPORE - Going into this year's National School Games (NSG), the Raffles Girls' School badminton team, who had claimed 20 consecutive B Division girls' South Zone championships, expected no less from themselves.
They delivered once again on Thursday (April 22), sealing yet another title with a 5-0 win over Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary) at Zhonghua Secondary School in the South Zone final, but the circumstances were drastically different from previous years.
This year's NSG was set against a much quieter backdrop, with supporters notably absent in the stands. Each point won was greeted with just a light smattering of applause rather than the usual cheers.
Last year's NSG was suspended then called off owing to the pandemic and safe management measures are in place for this year's edition. For some sports like badminton and table tennis, they will feature only the zonal and not the national level due to the large number of participating schools and shorter competition period.
RGS captain Ashlyn Chua, 16, said: "We were quite okay (with the changes) because our coach always tell us to focus on the game so if there are people on the sidelines supporting us, that's more of a bonus, it's not something necessary for us to play well.
"We are grateful for this opportunity to be able to play because we know that there's the Covid-19 pandemic. We're very happy to take part in the NSG again and do our school proud by clinching the gold medal."
RGS dominated the proceedings, winning all their matches in straight games, starting with Jennifer Wu's 21-10, 21-12 victory over Fairfield's Chloe Cheong.
With the year-long break from competing, Ashlyn admitted there was occasions when she and her teammates experienced a dip in motivation.
The Secondary 4 student said: "Even though training may be hard sometimes, we encouraged each other to push forward because we know that there will be the NSG coming up."
Another source of encouragement was this was the last B Division competition for some players. Vice-captain Zion Seng, 16, said: "We are Secondary 4 students and it's our last year so the fact that it was going to be our last NSG at the secondary school level also motivated us."
Despite the one-sided loss, Fairfield's vice-captain Lim Si Yu, 16, was proud of her team. She said: "Today's final was definitely a challenging match. However, I know my team and I put up a good fight and we did not give up throughout the match."
The Secondary 4 student added: "When the NSG stopped we were disappointed. But when it started again this year, we were thankful that we could play because it's my last year this year so being able to play again, we're all very happy and thankful."