SEA Games: No targets set, but medals for Team Singapore will come with personal bests, say officials

(From left) MCCY Minister Edwin Tong, Team Singapore flagbearer Sheik Farhan, chef de mission S. Sinnathurai and SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin. PHOTO: ANDY CHUA/SNOC

SINGAPORE - Sport officials on Wednesday (April 27) declined to declare a medal target for Team Singapore at the upcoming SEA Games in Hanoi, instead expecting personal best performances from athletes which would put them in contention for podium finishes.

Some 427 athletes will participate in 274 events across 33 sports at the May 12-23 edition, which will be held in Vietnam for just the second time. It first staged the Games in 2003.

More than half - 243 - of the athletes will be making their debut at the biennial regional event, which was postponed from December 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

At a press conference organised by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Wednesday, Singapore Sport Institute chief Su Chun Wei responded to a question about medal targets by suggesting a "refocus" on the athletes' journey to the SEA Games and recognising the "resilience and determination" which earned them their spots in Hanoi.

"It is reasonable to expect they do their personal best," he said. "As a process, the medals will come, but I think that it is not something we want to jump the gun (on)."

When quizzed further on whether there were any medal numbers attached to performance expectations, Su said: "If you track each athlete's (personal bests) and performance trajectories, they will meet certain historical performance levels at the SEA Games.

"So again, I emphasise that we don't want to focus on the absolute number of medals, but... every athlete is going there to compete. That is what we emphasise and will look out for. The medal, as a matter of process, will follow."

The Republic's best SEA Games performance was in 2015 as host, when its athletes garnered 84 gold, 73 silver and 102 bronze medals.

Its best overseas showing (58-58-72) came two years later in Kuala Lumpur. At the last edition in the Philippines in 2019, the contingent brought back 53 gold, 46 silver and 68 bronze medals.

This will be the first major Games of a busy 2022 for national athletes - with the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games slated to take place in July and September, respectively.

It is also the first major sporting event for a large contingent of Singaporean athletes as the Republic begins to emerge from the pandemic, noted chief medical officer Dr Kelvin Chew. While the Olympics had been the first outing for Team Singapore since the pandemic, the Republic was represented by only 23 athletes in Tokyo.

The Team Singapore Covid-19 management plan in Hanoi, said Dr Chew, will revolve around two tenets: prevention and early detection.

"Every athlete and official is given a very comprehensive travel advisory and it spells out various prevention strategies such as emphasis on hand hygiene, advice against sharing of personal items, et cetera," he said.

Medical personnel will be assigned to every sport or team, so "proactive surveillance" and daily monitoring of athletes and officials can be conducted.

Athletes will arrive two days before their competition commences, and depart within 24 hours after their competition ends.

The SEA Games will be spread across 12 provinces in Vietnam. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In addition, they will operate in a bubble that has been spelt out by Hanoi Games organisers, with movements only from their respective hotels to training and competition venues.

Every athlete is required to undergo an antigen rapid test administered by organisers 24 hours before competition, and every three days.

Care packs with snacks like biscuits and instant porridge, bars and Milo sachets, as well as test kits, surgical masks, hand sanitisers and wipes, will also be distributed to every member of the Singapore contingent.

Even with all these in place, given the SEA Games will be spread across 12 provinces in Vietnam, the Singapore contingent - which will also include 209 officials - will be decentralised and put up in different hotels, which are closer to their respective sports' competition venues.

As such, said Su, "it can be expected that a small number of athletes and officials" could be infected with Covid.

"But... most of these cases should be mild and asymptomatic," he added.

In the case of a positive test, affected individuals will be required to self-isolate, with contact tracing then being done to identify other team members who have to be screened.

The SNOC has also made arrangements with local authorities in Hanoi to ensure that "adequate, good medical facilities are available to us on a prioritised basis," added Su.

Various other arrangements have also been made to ensure Singaporean athletes and officials will be as comfortable as possible, based on the takeaways from various recce trips conducted by the SNOC delegation in the lead-up to the SEA Games.

"I assure you life in Hanoi is as normal as it can be. The pho and banh mi are served in abundance, so nothing is really too out of sorts," Su quipped.

On Wednesday, three-time silat world champion and defending SEA Games Class J (90-95kg) champion Sheik Farhan was also unveiled as the contingent's flag bearer.

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