Zero breaths, a five-cent coin target, and a whole lot of time pressure

30 Nov 2019

Be it in goals, timings, or podium finishes, numbers are fundamental in sports. With the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games just days away, we explore some unique figures from this event. Be warned: some of it definitely boggles the mind.

By Victoria Lee


0 breaths

That’s right – just one breath is all Amanda Lim needs before she enters the water

The number of breaths swimmer Amanda Lim takes in the water during the 50m freestyle. Yes. You read that right. A single breath on the platform is all it takes for her to swim the length of a pool, and at high speed too. It’s like sprinting without breathing, and her talent doesn’t stop there. With five consecutive wins, Lim has been unbeatable in the water at the SEA Games. She certainly takes our breath away. Can Southeast Asia’s fastest swimmer make it six in a row this year?


23 Cities

For the first time ever, the SEA Games will be spread out across an entire country. Competition venues will be scattered across 23 cities on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The size of Luzon is about 146 times that of Singapore’s – our athletes are certainly going to be seeing a lot of the country travelling around.


56 Sports

Team Singapore will participate in the men’s and women’s underwater hockey events at the 2019 SEA Games

This year’s SEA Games will also be its biggest edition in history, with over 11,000 athletes participating in 56 sports. An eclectic mix of sports will be making their debut, some of which are downright intriguing (underwater hockey anyone?). We might not know the rules of some of these sports but we know one thing’s for sure – the Philippines is definitely set for an exciting Games.


20 esports athletes

Robert Boon “Oh Deer Bambi” (third from left) is among the 20 athletes representing Singapore for the first time at the major Games

At the SEA Games, we’ll be watching a new form of action that we thought was mostly confined to the office – fingers flying on keyboards. Esports will be making its debut in Manila. With a whole lot of gaming talent in our island-nation, 20 esports athletes will be representing us in a total of six events: Arena of Valor, DOTA 2, StarCraft II, Tekken 7, Hearthstone and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Here’s to both avatar and athlete clinching gold in game and real life.



Rachel Teo (left) has to wake up at 4.30am to prepare her game face on the day of her competition

On competition day, Standard dancer Rachel Teo will be up at 4.30am, even though her event only begins at 1pm. Here’s why: Rehearsals, make-up and hair takes a while to finish. For these competitors at the Games, beauty is pain indeed. Waking up early gives them sufficient time to prepare the necessities; including clean sets of costumes, shoes and accessories such as jewellery and even heel protectors. It is a long checklist, but better to be prepared than scrambling for a pair of shoes last minute, right? As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm – in this case, Rachel wakes up early to give herself enough time to prepare for her performance. Will it pay off at the SEA Games? Let’s wait and see.


68 and 12 years old

Lawn bowl athlete Lau Kwok Fai (top) at 68 years old is the contingent’s veteran. Sailor Kenan Tan (bottom) is making his debut at the SEA Games at 12 years old.

We may be a small nation, but Team Singapore is going big at this SEA Games. With more than 600 athletes heading to the Philippines, this is our biggest away contingent yet. The team has a vast age range, with 68-year old lawn bowls player Law Kwok Fai the oldest athlete, and 12-year old sailor Kenan Tan at the other end of the spectrum. Squad goals, indeed.


0.5 millimetres

Singapore’s Jasmine Ser in action during the 10m Air Rifle Women’s Finals at the 2014 Asian Games

That is the diameter of the bulls-eye target in the 10m air rifle event – smaller than even a 1-cent coin. At such a distance, this target is simply invisible to the naked eye. It takes years of practice, unerring precision, and perfect stillness for our shooters to be able to hit the target with a degree of consistency. They even need to regulate their breathing in between shots. And you thought standing at attention during National Service was tough.


15 minutes

That’s the amount of time chess player Gong Qianyun can take to make each move in her rapid chess category. Although it seems generous at first glance, the entire match cannot exceed 60 minutes. Each move has to be calculated quickly or she’ll soon be finding herself running out of time. Talk about performing under pressure – one wrong move and you’ll be checkmated, and checked out of the tournament.