The Judges

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'I knew they were going to go'

Former Woodlands Wellington team manager says goodbye to coconut trees he planted more than 20 years ago

CHOPPED: The twin coconut trees (above) were felled yesterday at the construction site of North Park Residences.
CHOPPED: The twin coconut trees (above) were felled yesterday at the construction site of North Park Residences.
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They will fight for this

SEA Games medals revealed, along with a surprise for fans who attend closing ceremony

WORTH FIGHTING FOR: The colourful SEA Games logo is on the front of the medals (above), with the Sports Hub dominating the back, where the name of the event is also engraved.
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FAS sets Games football final target

Aide down with dengue fever, as Singapore coaches display united front for SEA Games

UNITED: (From left) Coaches S Subramani, Bernd Stange and Fandi Ahmad are in agreement over players' movements ahead of the SEA Games.

The goal was to end all confusion over player movement between the Singapore Under-23 team and the LionsXII, as the country enters the final straight of its preparations for the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which it will host from June 5 to 16.

In a shock development, however, it was announced at a media briefing by the technical team of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) yesterday that Under-23 head coach Aide Iskandar had been warded for dengue fever.

It is not known how long Aide (below), 39, will be out, but the FAS stated that assistant coaches Kadir Yahaya and S Subramani will lead the team while he recovers.

Despite the setback, national teams head coach Bernd Stange said in no uncertain terms that the SEA Games target was a place in the final, which will be played at the National Stadium on June 15.

Speaking to The New Paper, the German said all parties - the players, coaches and the FAS - are convinced it is an achievable target.

"We cannot say we don't have a high objective; we want to deliver at the SEA Games, and that is to play in the final," he said.

"That target is important for the fans, the players, the whole country.

"This Under-23 team are the base of our future, and so we need a top performance from them."

Stange, along with Aide and LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad, have agreed on a strategy involving four players that are wanted by both teams.

A 30-man Singapore Under-23 squad will enter centralised training on Friday and the SEA Games team will then head to Japan on May 10 for a week-long tour which includes two friendly matches.

LionsXII players Faris Ramli, Sahil Suhaimi, Christopher van Huizen and Zakir Samsudin will be made available, though, for the Malaysian Super League's side FA Cup semi-final first leg against Terengganu on May 9 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

They will leave the Under-23s camp on May 7 and return to the fold before flying off for Japan three days later.

The quartet will not be available for the second leg of the Malaysian FA Cup semi-final on May 16 in Kuala Terengganu, but will be released again should Fandi's side qualify for the final on May 23.

Subramani said it was important to have all 30 players together for Japan - the squad will be reduced to 20 upon the team's return - but the coaches recognised the psychological boost the four players would gain playing in the first leg of the semi-final, and possibly the final.

Fleet-footed attacker Faris, 22, had been prepared to miss the cup-ties, and is over the moon over the decision.

"As players, we always give our best to whichever team we are playing for, so I was prepared to miss out on the FA Cup.

"But now, I hope to do all I can to ensure the team carry a good result into the second leg."

Similar to the 2013 campaign, Stange will play an active role in the make-up of the final 20-man squad.

The football tournament will begin almost a week before the opening ceremony on June 5, with the hosts kicking off Group A action against the Philippines on June 1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Young Lions will also play Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia in the group stage, and Stange warned that they could not afford to underestimate any opponent.

"Other than playing on home ground, it is a small advantage to be in a group which has one less team (from Group B)," he added.

Group B features reigning champions Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste.

Sea games team will be ready

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Who will light the SEA Games cauldron?

Talk of who will light the SEA Games cauldron on June 5 picks up pace

Forty-two years ago, in 1973, the honour was bestowed upon legendary sprinter C Kunalan.

Ten years later, the mastermind behind Singapore track and field's glory years, the late Tan Eng Yoon, was the chosen one.

And in 1993, the last time the South-east Asia (SEA) Games was held in Singapore, bowling queen Grace Young was handed the honour.

With just 38 days to go before the region's biggest multi-sport competition opens in Singapore once again, a burning question doing the rounds is: Who will light the Games cauldron at the National Stadium on June 5?

It is always the biggest secret for any Games and organisers are not letting on.

DETAILS UNVEILED

Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee chairman Lim Teck Yin kept his lips sealed at yesterday's press conference at the Black Box auditorium, where the medals for the event were unveiled, along with details of the closing ceremony.

The Games cauldron will be placed at a location outside the National Stadium and on the identity of the final torch bearer who will light the flame, Lim, who is also the Sport Singapore chief executive, would only say: "The person must be someone people recognise, one that people are fans of, and the person must have contributed a lot to sport in Singapore."

Then, turning to his Sport Singapore team, he quipped: "I've already said too much!"

When contacted by The New Paper, figures in the local sports fraternity were divided.

Bowler Remy Ong said sporting excellence should be the main criterion when selecting the individual.

"I think it should be the person with the most (SEA Games) gold medals," said the 2003 Sportsman of the Year and triple Asian Games gold medallist.

"Since it's Joscelin (Yeo, swimmer), then it should be her because I hope that gold-winning aura can rub off on our Team Singapore athletes."

Swmming queen Yeo amassed a whopping 60 SEA Games medals over eight editions, and her haul of 40 golds is the most by any athlete in the history of the event.

The 35-year-old left competitive swimming after the 2006 Asian Games and is now the Singapore Swimming Association's vice-president (swimming).

James Wong, the 10-time SEA Games champion and former discus king, felt there was only one person who should be given the honour.

"My choice to light the cauldron would be Tan Howe Liang," he said.

"He put Singapore sports on the world map by becoming our first Olympic medallist and we should never forget that."

Former weightlifter Tan, now 81, won silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the lightweight category.

He was a torch-bearer at the 1993 SEA Games and ran the first leg of a 500km, 48-hour torch relay which involved 70,000 people.

Wong also suggested that a group of 50 former sportsmen and women who have made an impact in Singapore sport since 1965 be the torch-bearers.

RIGHT OPTION

Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua, meanwhile, said having a mix of old and new could be the right option.

While names like swimming's Yeo and weightlifter Tan the have been bandied about, there are some who feel a current sporting icon, like trailblazing swimmer Joseph Schooling, could help a legend light the cauldron and mark a new chapter in Singapore sport.

Said Phua: "We should have sporting glory from past and present.

"We should not forget the sporting heroes of the past but, at the same time, having a current star will have a higher level of engagement with today's Singaporeans.

"Whoever they pick, I certainly don't envy the one who will make the choice because there have been so many athletes who have brought glory to Singapore over the years."

The person must be someone people recognise, one that people are fans of and the person must have contributed a lot to sport in Singapore.

— Singsoc chairman and Sport Singapore chief Lim Teck Yin

We should not forget the sporting heroes of the past but, at the same time, having a current star will have a higher level of engagement with today’s Singaporeans. I certainly don’t envy whoever’s making the choice because there have been so many athletes who have brought sporting glory to Singapore over the years.

— Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua

The person who lights the cauldron must be easily recognisable as someone who has brought honour to Singapore in the sporting arena. It doesn’t really matter if he or she is an athlete or coach, or in some other capacity.

— Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping

My choice to light the cauldron would be Tan Howe Liang. He put Singapore sports on the world map by becoming our first Olympic medallist and we should never forget that.

— Ten-time SEA Games gold medallist and 2004 Sportsman of the Year James Wong

I think it should be the person with the most gold medals. If that’s Joscelin, then it should be her because I hope that gold-winning aura can rub off on our Team Singapore athletes.

— Triple Asian Games gold medallist and 2003 Sportsman of the Year Remy Ong

Cavaliers, Wizards in second round

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Golf Briefs

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Relief for star shuttler Lee

Malaysian can resume competitive badminton after appeals' panel rules he did not dope to cheat

I'M BACK: Lee Chong Wei meets journalists at a press conference yesterday. 

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