A Historic Olympic Games for Team Singapore

Photo by Sport Singapore via Reuters

20 Aug 2016

• Swimmer Joseph Schooling wins the first Gold Medal for Singapore, setting an Olympic record in the men’s 100m butterfly event
• Chef de Mission Low Teo Ping impressed with Team Singapore’s tenacity and never-say-die attitude in competition
• Safe outing for Team Singapore amidst security and health risks, comprehensive and extensive support from stakeholders, organisers, volunteers and fans

Rio de Janeiro, 19 August 2016 – Some 16,000km away from Singapore in Rio de Janeiro, 25 Singaporeans donned national colours of red and white and competed in 27 events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. They recorded a historic gold medal win in swimming, courtesy of Joseph Schooling’s Olympic record swim in the men’s 100m butterfly event, and made several breakthroughs on the Olympic stage.

Prior to the Games, this contingent had already made history in qualification – Singapore was represented for the first time in rowing at these Games and 10 sailors in seven events – the most ever – raced in the waters off Guanabara Bay. In all, 22 out of 25 met the qualification standards by their respective International Federations (IF). Though the athlete contingent size is on a par with the 2008 Games, 2016 marks the first time Singapore has qualified on merit in seven sports.

Sixteen of the Olympians made their debut in Rio, some proving that their youth and lack of Olympic experience were not factors to consider in facing seasoned campaigners. Paddlers Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan were fearless in dominating higher-ranked players such as Jeon Ji Hee (South Korea, ranked 11th) and Ai Fukuhara (Japan, ranked 8th) en route to the women’s team table tennis semi-finals.

Our swimmers demonstrated that they were a force to reckoned with. Joseph Schooling, a recipient of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship and Sports Excellence (SPEX) Scholarship, put Singapore in the spotlight when he out-touched three joint-silver medalists – Michael Phelps (USA), Chad le Clos (RSA) and László Cseh (HUN) – to a historic gold medal for Singapore and set an Olympic record of 50.39 seconds in the 100m men’s butterfly. He also set a National Record of 48.27 seconds in the 100m men’s freestyle heats and in the process qualified for the semi-finals.

Quah Zheng Wen, 19 and the youngest athlete in the contingent, also did well, entering two semi-finals in the men’s 100m and 200m butterfly events – making it the first time two Singaporean male swimmers qualified for the semi-finals. He set two new personal best timings in the 100m butterfly heats in 52.08 seconds and in the 200m butterfly heats with a timing of 1:56.01, and was merely 0.08 seconds from being in the finals when he clocked 1:56.11 in the semi-finals, thus concluding his second Olympic campaign with a top 10 position.

Rower Saiyidah Aisyah, who defied all odds to make an appearance at the Games, finished in overall 23rd position and as the third best performing Asian. Her performance bodes well for her preparations for the 2018 Asian Games where she hopes to emerge among the top three to win a medal.

It was not all smooth sailing for our sailors – tricky conditions and stiff competition hampered the progress of our sailors. The best-ranked sailors, Griselda Khng and Sara Tan in the new 49er FX Olympic class, finished in 15th place on a par with Colin Cheng’s best placing for Singapore in sailing at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Colin did not manage to find his form in Rio and finished 20th overall in the Laser Standard event. While Griselda and Sara have already pencilled themselves in for a campaign for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the eight other sailors will take more time to decide if they will make a run for 2020.

Athletes from athletics, badminton and shooting did their best among the world-class competition in Rio. Marathoner Neo Jie Shi finished the marathon in a timing of 3:15.18 under tough and gruelling weather conditions which caused 24 runners in her field to drop out. Timothee Yap, who participated on a wildcard ticket made it through the preliminary stage to round 1 in the men’s 100m event. Shooters Teo Shun Xie and Jasmine Ser did not manage their targets in a strong field of top class shooters. Likewise for shuttlers Derek Wong and Liang Xiaoyu, they played their best on the day and were disappointed not to make it past the round of 32.

Mr Low Teo Ping, the chef de mission for Team Singapore, expressed satisfaction on the team’s performance and on achieving an incident-free Games for Team Singapore. He also gave praise to the support staff in preparing the team for the Games.

“This has been a challenging Olympic Games right from the outset. Being in South America for the first time, there were health, security, and safety issues to be addressed prior to the Games. Preparatory work began well ahead of time and did not compromise the need to ensure that our athletes were also in training and well-prepared to compete at the highest level.

“The athletes and officials settled comfortably into the Olympic Village not without having to address a number of issues relating to the amenities but these were resolved rather quickly. Once the athletes were accommodated comfortably, they went straight into their respective training regimes.”

On the team’s performance, he added, “Joseph Schooling’s phenomenal performance in the 100m butterfly and in Olympic record time was the highlight for Team Singapore. We are generally pleased with the performance of all the athletes despite some not being able to perform beyond their personal best bearing in mind that they were competing with the world’s best in their respective disciplines.

“Overall, we are pleased with the results and glad that this has been a safe and successful outing for Team Singapore. Team Singapore deserves an A+ grade for their performance in Rio. We are thankful to the support team from the Singapore National Olympic Council and Sport Singapore who helped to conclude the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a team that is healthy and safe and with a historic performance to boot.”