2019 – a year of giant slayers, world champions and historic golds

30 Dec 2019

By Victoria Lee

2019 was quite the year for Singapore sports. We saw our athletes topple giants, become world champions and achieve sporting breakthroughs. To celebrate the year’s end and welcome a brand new decade, we’ve picked out this year’s top nine sporting moments.

1. Young aquatic stars come of age in Manila

Within Southeast Asia, Singapore remains the undisputed king in the pool. In Manila, our athletes swam their way to 23 golds as they produced a best ever performance at an away SEA Games. The young guns of Darren Chua, Jonathan Tan, Gan Ching Hwee, Christie Chue and Elena Pedersen were responsible for half of Singapore’s gold rush. With the emergence of these young stars, our future in the pool looks bright.

2. A historic SEA Games home run

In their first meeting with the Philippines in Manila, the Republic’s men’s softball team were thrashed 8-0. But it was Singapore that had the last laugh, pulling off a stunning upset over the regional giants with an emphatic 6-1 victory in the final. Our softballers achieved their first SEA Games gold under remarkable circumstances, with the Philippines having won the gold medal at all editions except one. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

3. A bronze from out of nowhere

Paddler Feng Tianwei’s aim was to reach the top eight of the ITTF Women’s World Cup, but she surged to its semi-finals instead. And after falling to Chinese top seed Zhu Yuling, she refused to let defeat define her tournament, defeating USA’s Lily Zhang in the 3rd place play-off to bag a bronze. Based on current form, this three-time Olympic medalist is peaking perfectly in time for Tokyo next year. Will a fourth Olympic medal be on the table for Feng?

4. Top of the world for Amita

Photo: Kong Chong Yew

They say good things happen in pairs, and it truly did for fencer Amita Berthier this year. Within a space of a week, she was crowned Asian junior champion at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships, and became the world’s top junior fencer. It’s the first time that a Singaporean fencer has topped the world rankings. There is still much to come from this 19-year old prodigy, and we can’t wait to see what the new decade has in store for her.

5. Toppling a badminton powerhouse…on his own

At the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters in January, Loh Kean Yew single-handedly vanquished four Chinese shuttlers as he claimed his first Badminton World Federation World Tour crown. His biggest victory? Beating the tournament’s top seed and badminton legend, Lin Dan, in the final. His conquests led to him being dubbed the “Chinese Slayer” online. A new year may be coming, but we won’t forget this moment of 2019 anytime soon.

6. Causing the year’s biggest upset

Not to be upstaged by her compatriot Loh, Yeo Jia Min also claimed a huge scalp of her own this year. At the BWF World Championships in August, the shuttler sent shockwaves around the badminton world after defeating world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi in the second round. Her dazzling quarterfinal run in Switzerland is also Singapore’s best result in the women’s singles to date. The top badminton players are beginning to take note of this giant killer, and may be starting to sweat a bit too.

7. From debutant to world champion

Photo: Guli Kozama

She made her bow, promptly beat every opponent, and is now world champion. Constance Lien’s debut at the World IBJJF Jiu-jitsu Championships in May ended on the happiest of notes as she clinched the women’s blue belt featherweight world title. It’s been a stellar year for the 19-year old, who also bagged a gold at this year’s SEA Games. It could have been so different for Lien, who almost picked Muay Thai over Jiu-jitsu when she first started learning martial arts. But now, she’s beginning to grapple her way up to the top.

8. A gold rush on ice

For almost every day in 2019, Trevor Tan has been rising earlier than the sun to train. The 16-year old speed skater has spent nearly a year training full-time in South Korea, and it is paying off. In August, he clinched gold in the men’s Junior B 1,000m category at the Asian Open Short-Track Trophy. But before Tan heads back to school in 2020, there is just the small matter of competing at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne next month. What a way to wrap his speed-skating adventure.

9. Striking gold at last

For the past few years, it was always silver for kegler Cherie Tan at the World Bowling Women’s Championships. But this year, she finally struck gold as she became the first Singaporean to win a Masters title at the tournament. Only a week later, Tan also became the first Asian to win the QubicaAMF Professional Women’s Bowling Association Players Championship – one of the most prestigious bowling championships. Tan knows that once you go gold, there’s no going back.