School sports: Student-athletes back in action as NSG kicks off with tennis, squash

Victoria School's Jayden Ng in action during the B Division boys' tennis competition on March 21, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Inclement weather may have delayed the start of the boys' B Division tennis competition by about 30 minutes on Monday (March 21) morning, but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of student-athletes and coaches as this year's National School Games (NSG) got underway.

"Tennis was quite lucky to have the NSG last year, so we got to participate but I always believe that the NSG is good to push ourselves to the limits," said Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) captain Bravis Sea, 16, after his school's 4-1 win over St Patrick's School at the Ministry of Education (Evans Road) courts on Monday.

"It also helps create a team bond so we get to know each other more and it's quite a privilege to have the NSG this year."

The opening day of this year's NSG saw action in the boys' B Division tennis and squash, with four contests each.

This year's edition of the annual schools competition is the biggest since the pandemic struck in 2020. That year, the NSG was first suspended and then cancelled.

While it returned last year with 12 of the competition's 29 sports, it was axed within two months because of a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

All 29 sports will feature in this year's NSG, with all team sports making a return in their respective standard formats, except rugby which will be played in a sevens format instead of 15-a-side.

Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post that it was exciting to see the NSG resume while adding that precautions are in place "to help student athletes ease back into full competition".

These include rolling substitutions, reduction in playing time and increased rest intervals.

He wrote: "We are working with the sports councils and schools to ensure the safety of students and staff, and safe management measures in line with national posture are in place.

"This has been a long-awaited moment for our student-athletes, who have put in tremendous effort in preparation for the Games. Go forth and do your very best!"

Student-athletes were thrilled to be competing again, especially after overcoming various coronavirus-related challenges in the lead up to the NSG.

School training was halted for several weeks at the end of last year and the beginning of this year amid the Omicron wave, disrupting their preparations.

Victoria School (VS) vice-captain Reyes Ho, 16, tried to adapt to the situation by arranging practice sessions with his friends.

Although last year's runners-up got off to a winning start on Monday by beating Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 5-0 in their opening preliminary round fixture, Reyes admitted that he had initially been worried about their preparations for the NSG.

The Secondary 4 student said: "Getting runner-up last year really motivated us to push on and press harder because we want to make sure that getting runner-up isn't a fluke. Having this opportunity to represent our school for the very last time is really a great privilege."

HCI captain Zachary Foo also noted a lack of match play experience, although he and his teammates had tried to get around it by arranging friendlies with the A Division girls' and boys' tennis teams.

The 15-year-old said: "I was excited when we were allowed to play against VS, but I'm also quite disappointed by how the match went down. I think it's because we didn't have enough match play experience so that's something that we can work on."

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