By Kenneth Tan, Colin Tung, Erwin Wong and Les Tan/Red Sports
Singapore, August 14-26, 2010 — 131 Singaporean youths took part in 26 events at the Youth Olympic Games and the contingent brought home two silver and six bronze medals.
There were many notable moments of sweat, sacrifice and grit. Here are seven that stood out.
1. Isabelle Li — Table Tennis Silver
Isabelle Li, 16, won Singapore’s second silver in the singles competition. The road to the final was not easy for the Singapore Sports School student. The stiff competition format required Isabelle to play eight games before she finally earned the right to play in the semi-final stage.
In the semi-final, Isabelle, seeded seventh, took on fourth seed Suthasini Sawettabut of Thailand. Isabelle calmly saw off the Thai 4-0 to win in straight sets (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9).
In the final, Isabelle faced the number one seed Gu Yuting and went down 0-4 but the response from the near-capacity crowd at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was heartwarming as Singaporeans embraced her.
Isabelle Li chops a return in her final against Gu Yiting. (Photo 1 © Tan Jon Han/Red Sports)
2. Singapore 4 Montenegro 1 (bronze medal match)
The U-15 boys’ football team had raised the hopes of a nation when they achieved two successive wins over Zimbabwe and Montenegro in the group stages. Intense media coverage followed and the semi-final was a sellout.
However, their gold medal hopes evaporated in 80 minutes after a poor 0-2 loss against Haiti in the semi-final, leaving the country sorely disappointed.
From the highs of the group stage wins, the team plunged into despair. It was an emotional couple of days for the 15-year-old Cubs before their bronze medal playoff against Montenegro.
There were doubts whether the Cubs could beat the Balkan side again given their demoralised state but they pleasantly surprised everyone when they bounced back with a resounding 4-1 win.
The victory was all the more impressive considering they had to play the majority of the game without captain Jeffrey Lightfoot at the heart of defence after a horrific facial injury that required 15 stitches. The makeshift defence held up well while Hanafi and Ammirul poached two goals each.
The tears of coach Kadir Yahaya after the final whistle epitomized the importance of the victory for not just the Cubs themselves, but a country looking for new sporting heroes they can believe in.
The 1.59m Muhaimin comes up against a 1.79m Motenegran. Despite losing out in size, Singapore showed heart and skill to overcome their Balkan opponents. (Photo 2 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
3. Rainer Ng — 50m Backstroke Final
When 18-year-old Rainer Ng set the National 50m Backstroke record of 26.59 seconds at April’s National Schools meet, he was the undisputed leader of the discipline in a field of similarly-aged peers.
His rivals here at the Youth Olympic Games were 17 or 18 years of age too, but he still stood tall despite the standard of competition being many rungs higher.
Rainer won his semi-final race in front of a hysterical home crowd at the Singapore Sports School, and broke his national mark with a 26.37 which was the second fastest entering the final. Rainer had the nation’s expectations on his shoulders and delivered the goods in spite of the enormous pressure.
In the final, Rainer stayed within the leading pack from start to finish and though it was unclear immediately who won the race, the crowd went into transports of delight moments later when the scoreboard indicated that Rainer touched home in second place for Singapore’s first YOG silver medal.
His timing of 26.45 seconds was just 0.09 behind the eventual winner, and it was quicker than his pre-Games national record as well. For the Raffles Institution student, after a 2009 season when he picked up two silvers and three bronzes at major competitions, Rainer reigned again.
One for posterity – Rainer Ng and his silver medal. (Photo 3 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
4. Sailor Audrey Yong — Sailing
Sailor Audrey Yong took bronze in the girls’ Bic Techno 293 after a mighty close tussle in the second to sixth positions.
After 10 races in the Bic Techno 293, Audrey was lying in fifth position with 40 points, and with no realistic chance of a gold medal going into the final medal race. However, three sailors were just two points ahead of her on 38 points, and one behind with 41.
The medal race would thus determine the latter two podium places, and Audrey seized it with both hands. The 15-year-old Mayflower Secondary School student sealed her end of the deal by coming in third in the race, and with most of the chasing pack floundering, it was sufficient for a bronze medal.
This was Audrey’s second windsurfing prize in a little over 12 months after last year’s bronze at the Asian Youth Games.
Audrey Yong all smiles after winning the bronze medal in the girls Bic Techno 293. (Photo 4 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports)
5. Isabelle Li and Clarence Chew vs Koki Niwa and Ayuka Tanioka Tanioka (Japan)
This was edge-of-the-seat stuff, especially if you were watching it live at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. With the overall tie even at 1-1, it was down to the doubles rubber to determine which country would proceed to the semi-final stage.
All hope seemed gone when the Singapore duo lost the first two sets to the Japanese pair of Ayuka Tanioka and Koki Niwa, 4-11, 5-11.
Then came the fightback in the third set. Isabelle and Clarence led 7-3 but the Japanese came back to tie it up 8-8. Isabelle and Clarence then stared defeat in the face at 9-10 but saved match point to make it 10-10. The lead changed hands three more times before Isabelle and Clarence won it 14-12, to the delight of the partisan home crowd.
With momentum on their side, Isabelle and Clarence then swept the Japanese 11-3 in the fourth and the tie was now 2-2 and down to the rubber.
However, the first seeded Japanese pulled away from 2-2 to lead 9-3 before wrapping it up 11-6, but not before our pair had given them a scare to earn the admiration of the watching crowd.
Clarence Chew smashes a return. The doubles was an epic five-setter, with the Singapore pair coming back from 0-2 down to tie it up 2-2 and force a rubber. However, there was no stopping the Japanese who eventually won 3-2. (Photo 5 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
6. Clara Wong — Triathlon
Clara Wong had started the race well, coming out of the water in 11th position, exiting the transition in 18th position out of a field of 32 girls.
However, in the bike leg, disaster struck.
Unknown to supporters, Clara was involved in a bike crash with other triathletes. Minutes passed and she was still nowhere to be seen even after the girl, who had been last going into the bike leg, had started her run. Some began to think she had dropped out of the race. To everyone’s surprise and relief, the Victoria Junior College student soon appeared on her bike. She went on to finish the race in 30th and last position (after two girls did not finish as a result of the same bike crash) well behind everyone.
After the race, Clara, who was on the verge of tears, recounted that not only did she have to fight back from a crash, she had also suffered a tyre puncture in the aftermath and lost precious minutes trying to find a wheel station to fix the problem.
She could have given up but she persevered regardless of her being so far behind. Despite being last, she finished first in the hearts of many Singaporeans that day.
A bike crash left a gash on her arm but a courageous Clara Wong finished the triathlon. (Photo 6 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
7. Myra Lee — Diving
16-year-old Myra Lee competed with a back injury that left her in obvious pain and in tears.
After struggling through the 10m Platform preliminary rounds and finishing in last place, the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School student was whisked off for treatment.
Despite the injury, Myra turned up for the evening’s final with a heavily-patched back to go through her four dive sets. Although she finished last in a field of 12 divers, her never-say-die attitude was something worth applauding.
A solemn Myra Lee after her 10m platform preliminaries. Myra aggravated her injury before her last preliminary dive but still returned to compete in the evening final. (Photo 7 © Tan Jon Han/Red Sports)