Rugby's first superstar

Jonah Lomu's sudden death shocks the sport as New Zealand mourns

GENTLE GIANT: Jonah Lomu's (with ball) size and speed made him a feared player for many opponents. 

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Frankly My Dear looks ready for third win

IN GOOD HANDS: Selangor-based Kiwi trainer Anna Maree Scott (above), trainer of Frankly My Dear.
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NEC: Safety protocols in place to ensure safe rides for the public

Riding centres here have precautions for first-timers

CARE: The Singapore Polo Club and the National Equestrian Centre say they ensure their horses are well fed and regularly checked by vets.

Horses can be unpredictable and accidents can happen, but if safety precautions and common sense are in place, then serious mishaps can be prevented.

This is what riding schools and centres in Singapore - some of which offer pony rides to the public on weekends - told The New Paper yesterday.

Their responses came after an incident on Saturday at Punggol Ranch, where an elderly woman fell from a horse, was pinned under it and died of her injuries. (See report at below.)

Miss Nadia Chen, 28, the administration manager at the National Equestrian Centre (NEC), said the centre does not immediately put a new rider on a horse.

"The first lesson is theory - on how to approach a horse, how to behave around a horse and what the safety equipment there are when riding," she said.

All riders must also wear properly fitted helmets and proper heeled shoes - not sneakers - to prevent the shoe from getting stuck in the stirrup, she added.

Miss Chen said that for a new rider, there is always a trainer leading the horse and one walking by the side to ensure the rider does not fall off.

"Safety also means we take care of our equipment. We make sure the leathers are properly oiled and kept supple so they do not snap easily," she said.

Like NEC, the Singapore Polo Club also holds lead rein lessons for first-timers.

"We start out the same way for both the adults and the children," said its head of equestrian, Ms Samantha Parkhurst, 42.

Both clubs make riders sign indemnity forms so they know "riding is not without risks".

Both clubs also ensure that the welfare of the horses is taken care of, that they are well fed and regularly checked by vets.

Miss Chen said: "If a horse is not well taken care of and is in pain, the horse will let the rider know in the language it knows, such as bucking and rearing."


In addition to their own checks and risk management, these institutions are also accredited by the British Horse Society (BHS) or the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines.

Ms Parkhurst said the yard at the club and trainers' and grooms' qualifications come under BHS.

"The society comes regularly for checks and the last one was last week, when we were awarded the certificate," she said.

The Bukit Timah Saddle Club, in Eng Neo Avenue, was also awarded the certificate last week.

As long as there is proper accreditation, the schools and clubs are members of the Equestrian Federation of Singapore (EFS).

Gallop Stable, which runs Punggol Ranch, is not a member.

Commenting on the accident at Punggol Ranch, EFS' president, Dr Melanie Chew, said: "This is an unfortunate accident that should not have happened. It was the wrong type of horse used and managed by the wrong type of handlers."

Lianhe Wanbao reported that the horse which was involved in the accident is an award-winning retired race horse named Play On.

AVA: Incident under investigation

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Man jailed for attack that left victim with fractured skull

Man in group attack gets 3½ years' jail, one victim left with lifelong condition

The chase and attack lasted a minute. But it left one victim with a fractured skull and a lifelong condition.

Calling the attack "horrific", District Judge Mathew Joseph sentenced Phang Wee Lon, 21, to 3½ years in jail and six strokes of the cane yesterday.

Phang was also convicted of stealing a Bottega Veneta bracelet worth $530 and consuming methamphetamine. Three other charges were taken into consideration.

His jail term was backdated to Nov 13 last year, when he was remanded.

Phang, a permanent resident from Malaysia, was one of five men who attacked the victims at about 3.30am on Oct 22 last year outside Club Flux, a Thai disco at Serangoon Road.

As Mr Shawn Ho, 26, and Mr Wang Jie Feng, 22, were having drinks, a performer chatted with Mr Ho.

Phang was with friends at another table. After one of them pointed aggressively at Mr Ho, he and Mr Wang left the club with Phang's group in pursuit.

They caught up with Mr Ho and Mr Wang, punched and kicked them.

Phang and his friends then returned to Club Flux. The bouncer, who heard them talking about the attack and saw red stains on one of Phang's hands, called the police.

Mr Wang had bruises on his head and arm but did not seek treatment.

Mr Ho was less fortunate, suffering a skull fracture, cranial bleeding and damaged nerve fibres that affected his physical and cognitive abilities.


Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Ee Kuan said in his submission: "He has difficulty expressing himself and will be prescribed medication for post-traumatic epilepsy for the rest of his life."

He asked for a sentence of 3½ to four years and six strokes of the cane.

Phang's lawyer, Mr Lin Chunlong, asked for a maximum of two years' jail as a lengthy term and caning would amount to a "crushing sentence" and might not be the best way to rehabilitate Phang, who is about to start his national service.

"There is a good chance that the rigours of military training would shape his character positively," he said.

But Mr Joseph said: "What the court finds disturbing is that as a result of these brain injuries, (Mr Ho) suffered post-traumatic epilepsy."

He added that Phang was on probation for housebreaking and theft by night in 2010 and had reformative training for snatch theft in 2011.

The judge said: "It seems that the law has got no sting on you. You're quite bold and brazen."

Severed head of Malaysian engineer found in sack

M'sian engineer had been held by Abu Sayyaf since May before being executed

TRAGIC END: Mr Bernard Then was beheaded on Tuesday while negotiations were going on for his release.

A severed head, believed to be that of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then, was found near a municipal council building in Jolo island, in Sulu province in the Philippines, on Tuesday evening, according to southern Philippines police officials.

Jolo police chief Junpikar Sitin told The Star that a street sweeper found the head inside a sack with the words "Bernard Then Ted Fen".

He said they immediately cordoned off the area and took the remains away at about 10.30pm.

Said Mr Sitin: "We have turned over the head to the military task force for preservation and DNA tests."

He said he could not explain why the 39-year-old Sarawakian engineer was executed while negotiations were going on for his release.

"We are still investigating," he said, adding that only a DNA test could confirm Mr Then's death.

The body of Mr Then, who had been beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group at about 4pm on Tuesday, was reportedly buried not far from the vicinity of Barangay Tanan in Indanan, Sulu, where he was mostly held during his more than six months of captivity.

Brigadier-General Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said the beheading occurred as the military launched an artillery attack on the hostage-takers' position in Jolo.

Mr Then and another Malaysian, Ms Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, from Sabah, were taken from the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah, on May 15.

Ms Thien was released on Nov 8 and has kept a low profile since her return to Sabah.

Mr Then's family has appealed to the Philippine and Malaysian governments to expedite the search for his remains and repatriate it home, liberal news portal Malaysian Insider reported.

Breaking the silence on the beheading, Mr Then's brother, Christopher, also thanked well-wishers for their prayers and support in the months before the tragic news.

He said: "For the last 188 days, we lived with hope, yet hopelessness. With this dreaded news, we continue to pray for the repose of his soul.

"We hope the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines will expedite the search and repatriation of his body home."


Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the beheading as a savage and barbaric act, AFP reported.

"I, the government, and all Malaysians are shocked and sickened by the murder of our countryman Bernard Then, and we condemn it in its strongest terms," Mr Najib said in a statement on his Facebook page.

Mr Najib, who is in Manila for an Asia-Pacific summit, called for action against "those who have perpetrated this savage and barbaric act and ensure that they are brought to justice".

For the last 188 days, we lived with hope, yet hopelessness. With this dreaded news, we continue to pray for the repose of his soul.

- Mr Bernard Then's brother, Christopher

The right call

German Chancellor Merkel defends decision to call off friendly due to terror threat

TRIBUTE: German police look out at a mosaic meant to commemorate last week's Paris terror attacks after the friendly between Germany and Holland was called off.
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Riau spends more on student event than on haze

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'I deserved the win'

Federer irked by Djokovic's suggestion that he was handed the win at World Tour Finals

RUN OVER: Roger Federer (right) ends Novak Djokovic's (left) 23-match winning streak with a 7-5, 6-2 win at the ATP World Tour Finals.
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