Singapore had always reigned supreme at the SEA Games water polo competition, with a gold in every edition from 1965. And yesterday, that winning habit extended to the Republic's Asean University Games (AUG) team, who triumphed as the sport made its debut at the meet.
In a tense final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday, Singapore pipped Indonesia 10-9.
"I think both teams played very well, and it was clear that every member played his hardest," said Singapore captain Koh Jian Ying, a 25-year-old NUS law student and three-time SEA Games gold medallist. "Five of us have competed in the SEA Games before, but some of my team-mates had never competed in a tournament of this scale - it's a good indicator of their ability to perform on a regional level."
The two teams wrestled for control right from the start - Ridjkie Mina of Indonesia scored the first goal of the match with a penalty throw, but a number of powerful shots by Singapore's drivers brought the score to 4-3 in the hosts' favour at the end of the first quarter.
From there it was neck and neck with both sides tied in an 8-8 stalemate going into the final period.
Two goals by Singapore in the third and fifth minutes of the last quarter tilted the balance in their favour, but a final bid by Indonesia brought the score to 10-9 with 15 seconds left on the clock.
"It was a really tight match, but ultimately it's good to win," said assistant coach Paul Tan, 32. "We didn't start particularly well - we were sloppy on the defence during the first half, although our offence made up for it in the end.
"Overall, we did well enough to win all of our matches, but moving forward we need to aim to be more consistent instead of playing well only at the start or at the end."
The water polo victory gave Singapore a 24th and final gold at the AUG. With 20 silvers and 29 bronzes, the hosts finished fifth overall.
Thailand topped the standings with 52 golds, 34 silvers and 35 bronzes, with Indonesia coming in second (33-54-28) and Malaysia third (27-31-35).