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An Eye on the Competition

Janine Khoo

L-R,Chief Executive,Tote Board Fong Yong Kian, Team Singapore’s Chef-de-mission Annabel Pennefather,Equestrian rider Janine Khoo,DPM Teo Chee Hean,Deputy Secretary,MCCY,Hugh Lim at the 27th SEA Games MAP Award & Appreciation Lunch. Photo by Wee Teck Hian, TODAY

(Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Press Ltd. Article first appeared in TODAY.)

BY LOW LIN FHOONG, TODAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2014

Even as they were recognised for their efforts at last December’s South-east Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar, Singapore’s top athletes know they can ill-afford to take their foot off the pedal with regional rivals closing the gap with just 17 months to next year’s SEA Games.

Yesterday, the Republic’s top performers from the Myanmar Games were honoured at the Multi-million dollar Awards Programme (MAP) Awards at the Swissotel Merchant Court Hotel, with a total of S$400,000 handed out for the 34 gold medals won.

United States-based swimming sensation Joseph Schooling, regarded as a medal potential for the 2016 Olympics, topped the list of recipients with a S$27,500 cheque for his five-gold-medal haul. Team-mates Tao Li and Amanda Lim were second and third with S$22,500 and S$17,500, respectively, with canoeists Stephenie Chen and Suzanne Seah rounding up the top five money list with S$15,000 each for their double-gold haul in the women’s K2 500m and K2 200m.

Overall, Singapore’s swim team were the biggest earners yesterday with S$115,000 for their 11-gold haul, followed by sailing (five) and table tennis (four) taking home S$60,000 and S$50,000 respectively.

But while Team Singapore’s winners celebrated their Chinese New Year hongbao handed out by Deputy Prime Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) President Teo Chee Hean, many TODAY spoke to are aware their regional rivals are catching up fast as Singapore prepares to stage the 28th SEA Games in June next year.

At the 2013 Games, Singapore’s 34 gold, 29 silver and 45 bronze haul from 25 sports saw them finishing sixth among the 11 countries, one place down from the 2011 Games where Singapore were fifth with a 42-45-73 medal tally from 42 sports.

While Singapore remained the region’s top swimming nation with 11 gold medals ahead of Thailand (7) and Indonesia (5), the likes of Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Anh Vien, Thailand’s Natthanan Junkrajang and Indonesia’s Triady Fauzi Sidiq claimed three golds each in Naypyidaw.

In a speech delivered at the Singapore Sports School’s 10th anniversary awards dinner last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the stronger competition from South-east Asian countries, even in sports like swimming and table tennis which Singapore traditionally do well in.

SEA Games triple gold medallist Lim, part of Singapore’s women’s 4x100m freestyle relay side who were beaten to gold by Thailand in Naypyidaw, knows a lot of work needs to be done. “We are definitely feeling the heat and the Thais and Vietnamese are really good,” said the 20-year-old Nanyang Technological University undergraduate. “We need to keep training hard and aim higher.”

Added Clarence Chew, who lost the table tennis men’s singles semi-final (4-2) to Vietnam’s Tien Dat Le: “Thailand and Vietnam are usually the stronger teams at the SEA Games, and Malaysia had a few good players. My semi-final match was quite close this time, but I will work harder for 2015 and try my best to beat him in our next encounter.”

Canoeists Chen and Seah are also gearing up for a battle with their regional rivals at the 2015 SEA Games.

Said Seah: “We were really scared of Myanmar as we had not seen them compete and they were ridiculously fast in the K4. Everyone will improve in the next two years and we just have to train as hard as we can to beat them next year.”

Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme

Top 5 athletes (2013 SEA Games)

1 Joseph Schooling (swimming): S$27,500 (men’s 200m IM, 100m butterfly, 200m fly, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m freestyle relay)

2 Tao Li (swimming): S$22,500 (women’s 100m backstroke, 100m fly, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay)

3 Amanda Lim (swimming): S$17,500 (women’s 50m freestyle, 4x200m
stronger competition from South-east Asian countries, even in sports like swimming and table tennis which Singapore traditionally do well in.

SEA Games triple gold medallist Lim, part of Singapore’s women’s 4x100m freestyle relay side who were beaten to gold by Thailand in Naypyidaw, knows a lot of work needs to be done. “We are definitely feeling the heat and the Thais and Vietnamese are really good,” said the 20-year-old Nanyang Technological University undergraduate. “We need to keep training hard and aim higher.”

Added Clarence Chew, who lost the table tennis men’s singles semi-final (4-2) to Vietnam’s Tien Dat Le: “Thailand and Vietnam are usually the stronger teams at the SEA Games, and Malaysia had a few good players. My semi-final match was quite close this time, but I will work harder for 2015 and try my best to beat him in our next encounter.”

Canoeists Chen and Seah are also gearing up for a battle with their regional rivals at the 2015 SEA Games.

Said Seah: “We were really scared of Myanmar as we had not seen them compete and they were ridiculously fast in the K4. Everyone will improve in the next two years and we just have to train as hard as we can to beat them next year.”

Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme

Top 5 athletes (2013 SEA Games)

  1. Joseph Schooling (swimming): S$27,500 (men’s 200m IM, 100m butterfly, 200m fly, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m freestyle relay)
  2. Tao Li (swimming): S$22,500 (women’s 100m backstroke, 100m fly, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay)
  3. Amanda Lim (swimming): S$17,500 (women’s 50m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay)
  4. Stephenie Chen (canoeing): S$15,000 (women’s K2 500m, K2 200m)
  5. Suzanne Seah (canoeing): S$15,000 (women’s K2 500m, K2 200m)

Each individual is awarded S$10,000 for the first gold, and S$5,000 each for the second and third gold. The award for team event gold is S$15,000, with team sports gold pegged at S$30,000. The Tote Board and Singapore Pools are sponsors of the SNOC MAP.

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