Singapore's hunt for medals at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games began in earnest yesterday as archers Ang Han Teng, Alan Lee and Pang Toh Jin clinched a team compound silver.
It was the country's first piece of silverware in Malaysia and the first time Singapore had claimed a medal in the men's team compound event, which was introduced at the 2005 Manila Games.
Although they were seeded sixth, the trio surprised many with a giant-killing run to the final, where they lost 222-228 to top seeds Malaysia.
The Singaporeans had first stunned third-seeded Indonesia in the quarter-finals with a last-gasp 226-225 win after trailing for most of the match. The Indonesians' three-man line-up included Prima Wisnu Wardhana, who won the individual title on Wednesday.
Lee, Ang and Pang then scored a total of 233 - improving on their previous best of 231 set at the South-east Asian Archery Championship in January - to eliminate 2011 and 2013 champions the Philippines in the last four.
Ang, who was part of the team that lost the bronze-medal match at the 2015 edition in Singapore, said: "We trained really hard for this, hoping we would do well but this has surpassed all our expectations."
A good start against the hosts and defending champions saw Singapore leading 56-54 after the first six shots, giving them hope of creating history as well.
No local male archer has won a Games gold. Singapore's only two champions are Chan Jing Ru (women's individual recurve at the 2013 edition in Myanmar) and Sam Tan (individual women's 70m and individual overall on home soil in 1983).
But the Malaysian team of Juwaidi Mazuki, Zulfadhli Ruslan and Lee Kin Lip upped their game over the next two ends. Over their next 12 attempts, they hit the bull's eye - for 10 points - 10 times. For the entire match which featured 24 shots, Singapore struck the bull's eye eight times.
Kin Lip said: "We told one another to stay calm and made a few adjustments for the wind which affected us at the start. We know if we perform at our level there's no way Singapore can beat us. I've been shooting since 2011 and I've never lost to Singapore in this event."
Singapore coach Sng Beow Leng noted the 11-point difference in scores for the semi-final and final by her archers and said it was partly due to nerves.
She noted: "They did a great job today but it was a tough final and the home crowd were doing their bit to cheer Malaysia (their women's compound team had beaten Vietnam in the final 30 minutes earlier) on."
The message was clear: Now is the time to deliver.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore take silver in high noon shoot-out against Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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