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Mixing mixed martial arts with entertainment
ONE's CEO keen to stage fights so stadiums will also shake to lyrics of rock bands
Imagine watching Singapore-based fighters such as Angela Lee duke it out in a ONE Championship ring here, before international music stars such as Coldplay or Kanye West take over the stage to rock the stadium to its foundations.
That may well be a reality not too far into the future, according to ONE's chief executive Victor Cui in a recent interview, thanks to a partnership deal they signed with Universal Music Group last month.
As part of the collaboration, Universal artistes Bodyslam and Big Ass will entertain the crowd at the Kingdom of Champions event on May 27, the Asian mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation's first-ever event in Thailand.
The event is also a first for ONE in combining sports with international acts, but the concept is not a new one in the local context.
The union of sports and music has worked well in the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix since 2008, and most recently the HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament early this year.
While the Thai event will mark the first time ONE will adopt such a format, Cui is keen to expand this to other ONE events in the near future, and make it even bigger in scale.
He said: "The partnership with Universal is Asia wide, so we would be doing that (new format) in hopefully every single event that we've got.
"But what I want to deliver is sports entertainment to the fans at the highest level, that they've never seen before.
"That includes all forms of entertainment: not just music, not just sports, but also everything that makes great value to the fan."
He hinted that more collaborations are in the pipeline to make ONE events more diversified entertainment acts, which may pave the way for the organisation to host an event at the National Stadium.
While The New Paper first reported in 2013 ONE's interest in holding an event at the 55,000-seater crown jewel of the Sports Hub, Cui says he and his team are still coming up with a sure-fire concept.
But, he reckons the mega National Stadium event might take place in a year or 18 months.
He said: "What I know is that we have to take it up to a whole new level if we want to fill the National Stadium, and I want it to be an event that puts Singapore on the global map.
"We want to gauge it properly, and it helps me to learn from what other people are doing at the stadium because it's such a new venue.
"We only do things if we know that we are going to sell out... so we've got to make sure that it's a phenomenal value proposition for the fans, and it continues to showcase Singapore in the best possible light."
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Three-peat for RI's squash girls
Ice-cool Annabelle clinches winning point as RI retain A Div Girls' squash title
The equation was simple - win her match and her school would be crowned champions for the third year in a row.
And Raffles Institution's (RI) Annabelle Lim duly delivered, as she clinched the winning point in their showdown with National Junior College's (NJC) at the National A Division Girls' Squash Championships at the Kallang Squash and Tennis Centre yesterday.
Annabelle had headed into her match - the fourth of the best-of-five final - with the score 2-1 in her team's favour.
With the pressure on her young shoulders, the 17-year-old showed nerves of steel to beat NJC's Li Ying Xi 11-5, 11-4. 11-4 to secure a 3-1 victory.
It was a repeat of last year's final when RI beat NJC 5-0 to clinch gold.
Annabelle's victory rendered the final match a mere formality, but she downplayed her performance and preferred to focus on the team's performance.
"All of us worked really hard for the win today. We tried our best and we are really pleased with our performance," Annabelle told The New Paper.
What made RI's feat even more impressive was the fact that this year's team were a new-look one from last year's title-winning team.
RI coach Allan Chang, who has been at the helm since 2004, praised his charges for their composed display despite their inexperience.
"I am very happy with today's result. All my girls put in their heart and soul for this victory. They were very determined to win as well," said the 57-year-old.
"We were composed and confident and I felt that nerves affected our opponents and that was something that worked to our advantage."
Elena Khoo gave RI a huge boost when she defeated Cherie Ko 11-8, 11-8. 11-6 in the first match.
NJC drew level after Low Hui Ling came out tops against Melissa Lee 11-1, 11-8, 11-8.
Despite the gallant fight put up by the NJC players, the superior fitness and technique of the RI players proved to be the difference in the next three matches.
Regina Ho regained the lead for RI when she prevailed 11-8, 13-11, 11-5 against NJC's Rika Ogawa.
Annabelle then clinched the winning point before Nicole Mak wrapped up proceedings for RI with a 12-10, 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 win over Gabrielle Lim.
NJC coach Waseem Gul, the son of former Singapore Open champion, Rahim Gul and brother of current squash national coach, Ibrahim Gul, was upbeat despite the loss.
He insisted that he was pleased with his team's performance and the best is yet to come.
"This is just NJC's second appearance in the final," said Waseem.
"Before the last two years, we have never reached the last four let alone the final, so I am really happy with their work over the last two years.
"Credit to our opponents who played well today, but we will continue working and I will do my best until I help NJC win the gold. That is my aim."