The Asean Schools Games (ASG) celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday, as the 2018 edition got under way with the opening ceremony at the Universiti Teknologi Mara campus in Selangor's state capital Shah Alam.
Running until next Friday, this year's ASG will see 1,131 student-athletes competing for top honours across 10 different sports - athletics, badminton, basketball, gymnastics, netball, sepak takraw, squash, swimming, table tennis and volleyball.
The Singapore team comprise 190 student-athletes from 40 schools, the second-largest contingent at the annual Games after Malaysia (192).
The host highlighted the country's multicultural make-up in a series of performances by students ranging from the harmonica and Malay hand-held drums to flag whirling and dancing set to the beat of Luis Fonsi's hit song Despacito.
Malaysia's Minister of Education and guest of honour Maszlee Malik exhorted athletes to make use of the opportunity presented by the ASG platform and showcase their best in competition.
"Sports has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in the language that they understand," he said, quoting the late South African political icon Nelson Mandela.
"Past ASG athletes include Malaysia's Goh Jun Wei and Indonesia's Jonatan Christie, both badminton players, and Singapore's (Olympic swimming champion) Joseph Schooling. It is my fervent hope that the ASG legacy of producing world-class athletes will continue to flourish."
In a nod to ASG 2018's theme "Unity Through Sports", athletes were organised according to their sports instead of their countries for the customary march-in.
Leading the way for the Singapore contingent was flag-bearer Kovan Toh, who is also captain of the boys' basketball team.
The 1.90m Secondary 4 student at Presbyterian High School admitted to struggling with nerves when called upon to wave the Republic's flag on stage.
"I wasn't sure what to do so I was just looking left and right (at the other flag-bearers) and trying not to mess up," said the 16-year-old.
"But it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I feel very proud to be able to represent Singapore this way."
At last year's edition on home soil, the Republic won 24 gold, 27 silver and 27 bronze medals to finish third in the overall medal table behind Thailand (29-26-32) and Indonesia (25-33-29).
Among the top performers were gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man (four golds) and swimmer Mikkel Lee (four golds and a silver). The latter is competing this year as well.
This is the second time Malaysia is hosting the Games, after the second edition in 2010. Singapore has also hosted the ASG twice - last year and in 2011.