SEA Games: Synchronised swimmers clinch team gold to wrap up Games outing

Singapore's synchronised swimmers pose after their win, on Aug 20, 2017.
Singapore's synchronised swimmers pose after their win, on Aug 20, 2017. PHOTO: TWITTER/ST SPORTS DESK

KUALA LUMPUR - When synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh went to the 2011 SEA Games in Palembang, she was merely a reserve.

At the 2015 edition in Singapore, she was part of the squad that won two golds (team free, team technical and free routine).

Today, the 19-year-old is not only captain of the Republic’s SEA Games synchronised swimming team, but she is also the biggest winner at the 29th SEA Games so far.

The competition concluded with the team free routine at Kuala Lumpur’s National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil yesterday, with Singapore scoring 75.1333 to take the gold, making it three for Debbie.

She had also won gold in the solo free routine, the duet technical (together with partner Miya Yong). The team free routine was performed with Miya, Gwyneth Goh, Ariel Sng, Rachel Thean, Christine Mok, Hannah Chiang and Vivien Chiang.

She also clinched two silvers in the solo technical and duet free (performed with Miya).

With Miya’s two bronzes in the solo free and solo technical events, Team Singapore wrapped up their campaign with three golds, two silvers and two bronzes.

Evaluating her SEA Games outing, Debbie said: “This whole experience has been very fulfilling. It has been a big transition – being one of the younger few in the team at previous Games to becoming the oldest and the captain at these Games.

“In these two years, there have been a lot of ups and downs, be it to improve the technical (skills) of the team or even the team-bonding aspect. There were some struggles here and there, but I’m glad we were able to push through to achieve our goal.”

Only three swimmers in the nine-strong squad were retained from the 2015 Games – Debbie and her fellow Singapore Sports School mates Miya Yong, 17, and 18-year-old Gwyneth.

Miya and Debbie had missed out on gold in the duet free yesterday afternoon by 0.0667 – their score was 76.2333 while winners Malaysia scored 76.3000.

In the team free routine last night, the Singaporeans were the second of four teams to perform, followed by Malaysia.

Recalling the anxious wait for their rivals’ results to be shown, debutante Ariel said: “We were actually really scared ... we were all standing in a circle waiting for the score and when the results for the Malaysian team came out, we just broke down. I think all of us cried.”

Malaysia were second in the team free routine (73.0667) while Indonesia finished third (71.4667).

Ariel, 16, added: “Most of us are relatively new to the team, so the past two years have been quite a struggle because we have been trying to prove ourselves to all the judges. To be able to come this far just shows that our hard work has paid off.”

Singapore coach Maryna Tsimashenka was happy with the technical and artistic aspects of her charges’ performance last night, but added that they had been targeting a higher score – an average of 80.

The Russian is hopeful the team can build on their Games success to do well at a higher level if there is sufficient training and support from parents and the community.

“At the Fina World Championships (last month), many countries were talking about Singapore and how (much) we have improved,” she added.

“We must have intensive training and I hope that the girls’ parents let them continue... Now we have a very good team, we can compete at a higher level.”