SEA Games 2017

Water polo: Silver medallists aim to be rising force

Singapore's Angeline Teo rises to block a shot from Thailand during the SEA Games women's water polo competition at Bukit Jalil's National Aquatic Centre. Teo scored to make it 1-1 before the Thais ran away with a 5-1 win.
Singapore's Angeline Teo rises to block a shot from Thailand during the SEA Games women's water polo competition at Bukit Jalil's National Aquatic Centre. Teo scored to make it 1-1 before the Thais ran away with a 5-1 win.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
Singapore's Angeline Teo rises to block a shot from Thailand during the SEA Games women's water polo competition at Bukit Jalil's National Aquatic Centre. Teo scored to make it 1-1 before the Thais ran away with a 5-1 win.
Jonathan Wong

S'pore fall to Thais again; aim to widen base, start girls younger to build a stronger team

Thailand cemented their status as the kingpins of women's water polo in South-east Asia with a comprehensive 5-1 win against Singapore yesterday to claim back-to-back SEA Games titles.

The dominant Thais finished top of the four-team round-robin tournament with a perfect record of three wins, scoring 39 times and allowing just seven goals.

Singapore, who scored 20 goals but conceded 17 during the five-day competition, had to settle for silver again.

At the 2015 Singapore Games, the Republic were favourites but fell to a 4-5 loss to Thailand.

Singapore coach Lee Sai Meng said: "The Thais have improved at a much faster rate than us. They also get more international exposure and have gone for tournaments in Greece and Sydney.

"Our base is very small in Singapore. A lot of our girls, they start late, maybe at 17, and they compete in the Schools' National A Division (there is no girls' water polo in the C and B Divisions) and from there they move on to the SEA Games. It's always going to be tough for them.

"The first thing we need to solve is increasing our base of players. We need to start these girls playing at a younger age and see how we can give them more competitions in the future."

Thai captain Varistha Saraikarn, who scored her team's fifth goal with a powerful shot, said a recent training camp in Japan under their Italian coach Daniele Ferri was the ideal preparation.

The 22-year-old said: "We believe we can compete at a higher level. Our next goal is to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games. We believe we can fight against the top teams like China, Japan and Uzbekistan."

Despite the one-sided scoreline at Bukit Jalil's National Aquatic Centre, the first half was tense affair as both teams began cautiously.

The Thais seized the initiative through Kornkarn Puengpongsakul's goal after three minutes but could not increase their lead as Singapore goalkeeper Eunice Fu made several saves.

A goal late in the second period from Angeline Teo restored parity but the Thais responded almost immediately as Sarocha Rewrujirek's shot took a bounce before skipping over Fu's outstretched arms.

The Thais pulled away in the third period with another goal from Kornkarn and a lob from Thitirat Somyos.

Singapore captain Gina Koh said a lack of killer instinct meant they failed to capitalise on their chances. She and her team-mates repeatedly turned over possession without testing Thailand goalkeeper Thawanrat Wongpairoj by running afoul of the 30-second shot clock.

Teo added: "We should have been more courageous in taking shots. We were very focused on not letting them counter-attack and also trying to find the perfect goal."

Singapore's men's team, who were in the stands cheering their female counterparts, face Malaysia today needing to win by at least a two-goal margin to seal their 27th consecutive gold in the biennial event.

They are tied with Indonesia at the head of the five-nation table with two wins and a draw.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Silver medallists aim to be rising force'. Print Edition | Subscribe