Story by reader Ng Wei Xiang.
Bedok Sports Hall, Wednesday, July 16, 2008 – Raffles Junior College won both the boys’ and girls’ A Division Judo titles at this year's National Schools Team Judo Championships.
6 golds (A, B, C Divisions for both boys and girls) were up for grabs with Hwa Chong Institution in four out of the six finals, while three Raffles teams went through to the finals.
The events were as follows:
C Girls Finals - Nanyang Girls High (NYGH) vs Raffles Girls’ School (RGS)
C Boys Finals - Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) vs Saints' Joseph Institution (SJI)
B Girls Finals – Nanyang Girls’ High (NYGH) vs Hougang Secondary School (HSS)
B Boys Finals - Raffles Institution (RI) vs Hwa Chong Institution (HCI)
A Girls Finals - Raffles Junior College (RJC) vs Hwa Chong Institution (HCI)
A Boys Finals - Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) vs Raffles Junior College (RJC)
First up was the C Division girls' final between reigning champions NYGH and RGS. Despite NYGH having many Individuals' Event champions in its team, and RGS fielding a mostly rookie team, RGS ensured that NYGH did not walk away as champions easily and put up a great fight.
In the C Division boys' final, it was powerhouse HCI against SJI, who made its first appearance in the C Division boys' final in more than 2 decades, ever since the 18 year-dominance by HCI and RI was broken last year. Despite putting up challenge, SJI was methodically swept away by HCI en route to the title.
The B Division girls' final was one of the day's highlights, when HS came close to spoiling NYGH's day. That division saw a close fight, with the girls giving their all and roughing it out physically, turning it into a fierce catfight. Spectators there were also entertained by the display of skill. After the first 4 bouts, the score was 2-2, and the last bout was to decide it all. The NYGH opponent sealed the title with a spectacular inner thigh throw, known in Japanese as uchi mata, and one of judo's most complex and dynamic throws. This left the HS girls as 1st runners-up.
RI returned to the B Division boys' final as champions from last year, and this year's final promised to be a close fight, as it had always been. HCI was leading by 2-1 when next up was the heavyweight bout, with RI needing a salvation, and HCI needing just another win to seal the title. The HCI judoka seemed to be dominating his RI opponent, until a stroke of bad luck resulted in him being pinned. When RI seemed to be close to salvation, the HCI judoka astonishingly flipped his opponent over, and the victory went to him and HCI. RI's captain won the open category bout, but it was only mere consolation for the team who also lost to HCI two years earlier, in the C Division finals. The lost left the Rafflesians pondering over what might have been.
The Raffles A Division girls were up against long time rivals Hwa Chong Institution. Having won two titles consecutively for the past two years, pressure was on the girls' team to bring back the title once again. Players from both schools, having played against each other for the past four years, were evenly matched. The tension was evident in the air as the players stepped onto the competition mat and the stadium exploded with cheers from supporters from both schools. Both sides knew that it would not be an easy match.
Indeed it was not. For the first match, Jiang He (RJC) and Faith Leong (HCI) fought hard against each other. Jiang He was in the lead with a yuko score, but Faith Leong kept her fighting spirit and managed to end the first match with a draw.
The second match was equally intense, as players from both sides did not score for the first half of the match. However, Cheong Limin (RJC) swept Beatrice Chua (HCI) in the later half of the match and was awarded a koka, sealing a win for RJC. The score was 1-0 with RJC in the lead, yet with three more matches to go, HCI could easily reverse the advantage.
With all eyes fixed on the third match, Penny Moo (HCI) and Rebecca Heng (RJC) put up an impressive fight. Rebecca was in the lead until the last second of the match when she was given a shido (penalty) and the third match too ended with a draw.
The pressure was now on the last two HCI players to win both of their matches. Melissa Sng (HCI) pitted against Yuan TianFei (RJC) for what could be one of the most exciting matches of the day. Both players were skilled and displayed their prowess with Yuan TianFei ending the fight with a wazaari score.
Wang Zijing (HCI) put up a decent fight despite the fact that HCI had already lost the competition, while her opponent Khoo Shi Tien performed well against the middleweight champion. Zijing won the match with a wazaari, but this still could not change the outcome of the competition.
The competition between the two judo powerhouses was a close one. RJC won by a margin with a score of 2-1, successfully defending their champion title for the third year running.
For 3 years, the Raffles A Division Boys have been on the losing end, clinching silver or bronzes on different occasions. It was thought that this year would be no different, but this year, everyone was in for a surprise.
Raffles was off to a rocky start with the HCI captain Chua Kai Jian dominating the extra-lightweight match against Philip Tan with beautiful low seoinages (shoulder throw) and counters.
Raffles 0 - Hwa Chong 1
Next up, was the lightweight match between the National Schools Individual Lightweight Champion,Hiroshi Kondo of HCI (top) against Cheng Wei Shen of RJC (bottom). With Hwa Chong's lightweight player having previously won the individual gold medal, Raffles' chances of winning were slim. Although Raffles was initially down by a small point, Wei Shen never gave up and put up a tough fight against his opponent, earning back that point and finally drawing the match in the last few moments of the 3 minutes game.
Raffles 0 - Hwa Chong 1
On to the middleweight match, Titus Ting Kwan Wei of RJC was up against Tan Jhun Boon of HCI. With a perfect footsweep, Titus scored a large point and managed to finish his opponent in a stunning shoulder throw soon after. Finally, some hope to the Raffles A boys team.
Raffles 1 - Hwa Chong 1
For the heavyweight match, the crowd was in anticipation for a tough fight between Tang Zhong Ning of HCI and Deng Yanjun of RJC. Having beaten each other before, both were out to fight for the deciding point. Zhong Ning was steady and alert throughout the match, while Yanjun was not able to perform, thus Zhong Ning won the match with points from a shoulder throw and a sharp tai-otoshi.
Raffles 1 - Hwa Chong 2
Next up, was the open category. Alex of RJC simply scared the wits out of his opponent Boyi of HCI and won an ippon with a beautiful uchi-mata throw.
Raffles 2 - Hwa Chong 2
By the rules, if the match is a tie, both sides have to send out their best players to play the tie-breaker.
It was Alex, National Schools Individual Heavyweight Champion up against the silver medalist Tang Zhong Ning. Zhong Ning did well against Alex, throwing him with a powerful left tai-otoshi, scoring a wazaari (half an ippon score, ippon is a straight win). But all was not lost, as Alex kept up the pressure and entered a forceful uchi-mata, with Zhong Ning resisting the throw, causing a slight concussion on his chest. Already exhausted from the previous match against Deng Yanjun, Zhong Ning no longer enough stamina to attack Alex, thus playing defensively and conceding three penalties(which is equivalent to one wazaari). There was finally renewed hope for Raffles, and Alex did not let us down, scoring a small point koka from countering one of Zhong Ning's attacks.
Raffles finally achieved the championship title after 3 years. But it would not be so without our worthy opponents, Hwa Chong, who have played their very best and spurred us on to become better and better.
We hope to meet Hwa Chong in the finals again next year, where we will do our utmost best to fight for our school, but at the same time bringing sportsmanship to a higher level!