Singapore may be set for a historic Olympic performance

Singapore now has world-class athletes to take on the best at the Olympics

Joseph Schooling.

In an Olympic Games about firsts, they are also striving to make a breakthrough, in the pool, with a gun, on saltwater, with a bat.

While talk of the host nation in recent months has been about a maddening, dangerous mosquito, the impeachment of a president and security fears, they have been working hard, sweating, focusing on strategy, studying possible opponents, honing technique, eating right and sleeping right.

In 20 days' time, the first Olympics on South American soil will open in Rio after probably the most troubled build-up to a Games in recent memory.

Local organisers promise Rio will pull off a grand show, Team Singapore will be ready, maybe to mark an Olympic triumph yet unseen in our sporting history.

Joseph Schooling can win a medal. The table tennis women can continue a proud tradition and return home with a medal, while captain Feng Tianwei's recent form suggests another podium presence in singles is a possibility.

Sailor Colin Cheng talks of a medal surprise, shooter Jasmine Ser now has experience to go with her world-class talent.

I know quite a few here loathe the business of medal predictions, but it is what excites a nation, and it is what Schooling is chasing, after all.

The swimmer has consistently talked about it - gold is his ultimate goal, it is why he gets up every morning to train, it is the reason he constantly studies his movements on the computer and talks to his coach about improving technique and works out at the gym.

He believes he can win a medal and unashamedly says so.

PROTECTIVE SHIELD

Team Singapore officials afford our athletes a protective shield to ease the pressure on them and it is suffocating, as media interviews are restricted and talk of medal targets is avoided at all costs.

As if it will help ease the burden on Feng and Olympic rookies Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan, who will fight to make it a hat-trick of medal wins for the women's table tennis team at this year's Games.

Twenty-five athletes from Singapore will be in Rio contesting in seven sports and, at this year's Games, there is a chance our best sportsmen and women can win metal in table tennis and swimming, and maybe sailing and shooting.

This is the first time Team Singapore head off for an Olympics with such a possibility and it suggests the pursuit of sporting excellence in the country has become a real ambition among the various stakeholders.

The Zika virus, political upheaval, a struggling Brazilian economy, construction woes, athlete pullouts, strikes by police and transport workers, Rio gangs and crime, petty and dangerous, have all peppered the news over the last few months as the clock ticked down to the 2016 Olympic Games.

For the sake of the world of sport, let's hope the Brazilian organisers get it right in the end.

While the anxiety over the state of the Games will only dissipate when it gets underway, for now, let's picture our Schooling crouching down on his block with Michael Phelps alongside, or our Feng duelling with Japan's young Mima Ito.

Or Ser, unmoved and breathing until that moment she pulls the trigger, or Cheng majestically hanging off the side almost touching the water with only his legs in his boat, challenging the best Laser sailors in the world.

That should be enough to generate excitement here.

The New Paper talks about their chances in our special feature over the next few pages.

Maybe, Schooling will miss out on a medal in a 100m butterfly race that will be loaded with stars.

Maybe, the likes of Japan and South Korea have caught up with our female paddlers and Cheng and Ser will come up short in their respective disciplines because they are still not ready.

If our athletes falter, let's dust off, pick up the pieces and go again.

Because sport is finally serious business in Singapore.

The Olympic Games is almost upon us and it's time for our best to live and breathe a winning mentality, as they head off to play on the grandest stage of them all.

She tops SCDF volunteer firefighting course

Female trainee aces gruelling 16-week volunteer firefighter course

TOUGH: Ms Clare Tan demonstrating the components of the Breathing Apparatus Physical Test, which includes going through an obstacle-filled tunnel.
Ms Clare Tan
TESTING TIMES: (Above) 
Ms Clare Tan pulling 25kg in weights, climbing a ladder 
and running on the Running Belt Ergometer.
TESTING TIMES: Ms Clare Tan pulling 25kg in weights, climbing a ladder 
(above) and running on the Running Belt Ergometer.
TESTING TIMES: Ms Clare Tan pulling 25kg in weights, climbing a ladder 
and running (above) on the Running Belt Ergometer.
READY TO HELP: (From left) Mr Terence Cheong, Ms Clare Tan and Mr Sam Chen are graduates of SCDF's Volunteer Firefighting Course this year.

In 2012, she saw her friend fall 10m while abseiling down a cave in the UK.

Fortunately, she managed to call the police in time and her friend, who had a broken heel, was given medical treatment.

After that incident, Ms Clare Tan, 26, told herself that one day, she would be the one providing the medical help.

Yesterday, she was named Best Trainee in the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Volunteer Firefighting Course (VFFC).

She was among the 16 trainees - 12 men and four women - who graduated yesterday at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA).

Recalling the abseiling incident, Ms Tan, a research engineer at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), said she was in a cave called Quaking Pot in Yorkshire Dales, an area in northern England,when the accident happened.

She said: "When I saw my friend fall, I knew we needed external help because I could not haul him out by myself."

Now, if something like that happens again, Ms Tan will be prepared.

The A*Star scholar topped the theory component and was also first in the obstacle course during the gruelling 16-week training programme for prospective volunteer firefighters.

In a demonstration for The New Paper at the CDAon Tuesday, Ms Tan was able to perform the six components of the Breathing Apparatus Physical Test - while wearing a 15kg firefighting suit that included breathing apparatus equipment such as an oxygen tank and a face mask.

WEIGHTS

The tests included climbing a ladder that is continuously being unrolled, pulling 25kg of weights using an apparatus called an impact machine, cycling at 80rpm (revolutions per minute) and going through an obstacle-filled tunnel.

Ms Tan said: "We're always pushed to the limit - but never beyond our limit."

The male-dominated environment did not deter her from joining the programme.

She said: "There were three other female trainees, and although we may not be as physically strong as the men, firefighters work in a team. Everyone works to his or her strength."

VFFC's course administrator, Lieutenant Ashwin Philip George, 20, praised Ms Tan's determination.

He said: "She really puts in a lot of effort. Before the training, she would come in early to run about 4km just to warm up."

Another trainee, service engineer Terence Chong, 32, said he wanted to inspire his sons, aged five and three.

Mr Chong said: "I wanted them to see me as a lifesaver. I want them to say 'I'm proud of Papa'".

The VFFC is a part of a larger volunteer force within the SCDF, the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU), which provides opportunities for civilians to contribute to civil defence efforts. (See report)

This is the second time the VFFC is training volunteers with no prior firefighting experience.

The number of trainees has gone up from 11 people last year to 16 this year.

Colonel Abdul Razak Raheem, Commandant CDAU and director of the SCDF's Volunteer and Community Partnership Department, said: "VFFC was created to help in raising the level of community emergency preparedness and, more importantly, to generate an active pool of Community First Responders during an emergency.

"In an emergency, the SCDF cannot be everywhere all the time and the fastest available help someone in distress could get is from a trained member of the community who is near him or her."

To women keen on joining the course, Ms Tan said: "Just go for it.

"(Even) if you think you are not strong enough for the task, you should not let any apprehension stop you from giving it a go."

Thailand trounce Singapore 4-0

Defending champions outclass Singapore to set up final clash with Timor Leste

FIGHTING 
FOR THIRD: After their loss to Thailand (in blue), Ander Eric Aplin's (in red, centre) Singapore will take on Malaysia for the bronze-medal match tomorrow.

They had only one goal on their minds, which was to bring home the football gold medal from the Asean University Games.

The boys from Thailand are one match away from achieving their goal, after they thrashed Singapore 4-0 in their semi-final match at Nanyang Technological University main field yesterday.

The defending champions will take on dark horses Timor Leste in the final tomorrow.

"We are aiming for the gold medal, but we know that the final will not be an easy game," said Krit Singprecha, who has been the head coach of Thailand in their previous three appearances in the Asean University Games.

"I can assure you that my boys will be giving of their best for the final as this is an important game for us.

"Timor Leste are a strong team and we will need to create even more chances if we want to score against a team like them."

There was no stopping the Thais yesterday, as Kroekpon Kaewmuean scored the opening goal in the 27th minute after a defensive mistake from the men in red left the midfielder unmarked.

Another defensive error three minutes from the break saw forward Anusak Laosangthai extend the lead for the Thais.

"To be honest, we were wary of Singapore because they were the host nation and anything could happen," Krit said.

"I told the boys that they had to keep their focus. When we scored the first goal, we could relax a little.

"We went into the second half with less pressure and we were able to play the game that we wanted to."

CLASS

Singapore introduced former LionsXII player Randy Pay in a bid to change things around.

But the Thais showed their class and stretched their lead to 3-0 in the 72nd minute from Prasert Phoommala's diving header.

Prasert scored his second of the game four minutes before the end after he was left unmarked in the box.

Malaysia lost 2-1 to Timor Leste in the other semi-final yesterday and will face Singapore in the bronze-medal match tomorrow.

Singapore will be out to seek revenge after losing 1-0 to the Malaysians in a group match on Monday.

"It was unfortunate that we lost to them in the group stage, but I would say that we definitely have a higher chance at beating them this time round," said Arasu Muthu Suppiah, head coach of the Singapore side at the Asean University Games.

"For both our losses, we lost because of set-pieces. In terms of play, I thought we dominated both games.

"If we can strengthen our defence during set-pieces, we should be able to beat the Malaysians."

At press time, Thailand lead the medal tally with 27 golds, 17 silvers and 14 bronzes.

Indonesia are second with 19 golds and Malaysia (13 golds) are third.

Singapore are lying fourth with 12 golds, seven silvers and 13 bronzes.


TNP Euro 2016 Goal of the Tournament contest

The New Paper ran a contest to ask readers to pick the best goal of Euro 2016.

Tan Eng Hoe (last four NRIC digits: 8645) has been picked as the winner in a random draw for voting Xherdan Shaqiri's overhead-kick goal for Switzerland against Poland as the best goal of Euro 2016.

He will receive a free ELEVEN SPORTS NETWORK Annual Pass* worth $214.90 - his ticket to a year's worth of English Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Serie A and many more exciting sporting action around the world.

  • The Eleven Sports digital streaming service is available at www.elevensports.sg and as an app which can be downloaded via the Google Play or App Store.

Imams in Turkey and Egypt condemn Pokemon Go craze

Premium content not available
Tags: police, Islam and Crime

S'poreans flying to M'sia for durian fix

DURIAN LOVERS: Mr Stephen Tan (in yellow) and his siblings sampling the fruit in Penang.
Premium content not available
Tags: penang, durian and Singapore

Pages