SEA Games: Team Singapore record their best-ever away gold haul

Swimmer Quah Jing Wen won Singapore's 44th gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games when she claimed the women's 100m butterfly title. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

KUALA LUMPUR - Sporting history for Singapore was created on Saturday (Aug 26) as the country surpassed its best gold-medal haul at an away SEA Games, with swimmers Quah Jing Wen, Amanda Lim and the men's 4x100m medley relay team taking the Republic's tally to 46 gold medals.

The nation's previous best overseas showing was 43 titles at the 2007 edition in Korat, Thailand.

Jing Wen made it 44 when she won the women's 100m butterfly.

Lim then took it to 45 with her epic triumph in the women's 50m freestyle - the fifth straight time she has won the event.

Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen, Darren Lim and Lionel Khoo then made it 46 when they set a new Games and national record of 3min 37.46sec in winning the medley relay.

But the men's table tennis team, widely expected to make it 47, suffered a shock 1-3 loss to Vietnam in the final.

Said the 16-year-old Jing Wen after her race: "Singapore has been doing well these past few years. Forty-four is insane but it's also just a number and it'll continue to grow.

"Singapore swimming will also go on to even greater heights."

Team-mate Amanda Lim later won the women's 50m freestyle - for the fifth straight time - to make it No. 45.

Team Singapore's chef de mission Milan Kwee said: "Surpassing the best away medal mark is certainly exceptional. Over the last two weeks, our athletes have worked and fought hard for every point and every second that matters.

"This milestone is testament to their efforts, and we hope to continue to bring out the best in them for the rest of the Games to win more medals for Singapore."

While the bulk of the 38-sports roster in Kuala Lumpur and its neighbouring states have been completed, Singapore can expect to pad up their tally before the closing ceremony on Wednesday.

The sailing programme, a sport that Singapore traditionally excels in, ends on Tuesday.

Wakeboarder Sasha Christian is favourite to defend her individual slalom title while speed skater Lucas Ng, who is entered in three events, is among the region's best. Figure skater Yu Shuran also leads the nine-strong field after the short programme and is a strong contender for tomorrow's long programme.

Should Singapore hit the half-century mark, it would only be the third time after the 84 golds in 2015 and 50 in 1993, when the Games was held on home soil.

Singapore had sent a record 568-strong contingent to compete in 35 sports (winning golds in 11 of them so far), the biggest team sent overseas for the biennial multi-sport competition. It skipped weightlifting, volleyball and sepak takraw.

It is also a largely young and inexperienced squad with 308 Games debutants while a total of 75 are aged 20 or younger.

While traditional gold mines like swimming and table tennis have delivered, there have been a number of surprise golds from the men's bowling team, synchronised swimmer Debbie Soh, high jumper Michelle Sng, teen fencers Amita Berthier and Lau Ywen, wushu exponent Jowen Lim and the men's golf team.

In a Facebook post, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu lauded the athletes' achievement and said: "This latest achievement shows how much we've grown as a sporting nation. It builds on our best-ever SEA Games performance when we were hosts two years ago. And it's only made possible by the hard work and perseverance of our Team Singapore athletes, plus the incredible dedication of the team around the team - coaches, sport scientists, analysts, physiotherapists, staff, volunteers, friends, family and all of our supporters. Kudos and thank you all!

"We shall not rest on our laurels. Let's continue to push on and end this Games on a high. Go Team Singapore!"

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.