Raffles seal A Division badminton double

SWEET: Raffles Institution's players after proving too much for River Valley High School in both the Boys' and Girls' A Division finals.

It was a glorious day for Raffles Institution (RI) as they clinched the National Schools A Division Badminton Championship double, beating River Valley High School (RVHS) in both the Boys' and Girls' finals at Toa Payoh Sports Hall.

While the boys' team successfully defended their title with a comfortable 3-0 win, victory was even sweeter for the girls as they regained their title after RVHS had ended their 18-year reign last year.

RI girls' captain Chung Shuqi cruised to a comfortable victory in her singles match, beating RVHS' Cheong Yi Hua 21-14, 21-8.

However, RVHS levelled the score after a hard-fought win by doubles pair Sandy Chua and Tan Li Lin over RI's Nicole Png and Lim Boon Wen 8-21, 21-18, 22-20.

Nicole and Boon Wen started strong, taking the first set 21-8.

However, Sandy and Li Lin regrouped and won the next set 21-18.

In the deciding set, both pairs went all out for every point.

The RI pair were on the brink of victory at 20-19, but the RVHS duo hung on grimly and won the next three points, taking the set 22-20.

Sparked by that stirring win, RVHS went on to take the first set of the next singles match 21-17 through Yu Yi.

The lead was shortlived as RI's Hannah Tay fought back to win the next two games 21-10, 21-17.

With the score at 2-1 in RI's favour, the RVHS doubles pair of Neo Yi Fang and Claris Woon appeared to be in control of the fourth encounter when they won the first set 21-15.

In the end, though, they were no match for the powerful smashes of RI's Charis Chan and Elizabeth Yaw who clinched the title with a 15-21, 21-15, 21-18 triumph.

After clinching the final singles for a 4-1 overall triumph, Shuqi told The New Paper: "Last year we lost to RV after winning for 18 years then this year we managed to get it back.

"As the captain, I'm very proud of the hard work and effort that they put in, they played very well."

RI coach Ronald Susilo was ecstatic over the double championship triumph.

"They earned it and they worked hard for it," said the Olympian.

"Despite their busy schedules, they managed to sacrifice their time to train which is not easy for them so I salute them for that.

"Everybody played well today. What we're most happy (with) is they gave their utmost and they didn't give up. That's what we want."

A LEGACY MISSION, AND A STORY TO TELL

The Singapore Swimming Association Legacy Council might only be 11 months old, but its members already have ambitious plans to cement the standing of aquatic sports here.

Chairperson and former national swim star Patricia Chan revealed plans to launch a Hall of Fame.

"We have started by recognising people who've made outstanding achievements to swimming, and we also want to forge a culture based on recognition," she said, on the sidelines of an aquatics exhibition at the Kallang Wave Mall yesterday.

The Hall of Fame, which will most likely take on a virtual form, will be open to any aquatic athlete past or present.

LEGENDS: Singapore Swimming Association Legacy council members (from left, above) Ang Peng Siong, Patricia Chan and Tay Chin Joo at the aquatic exhibition at Kallang Wave. PHOTOS: ST, ST FILE

Chan noted: "It'll be great if the sports bodies can work together, because in Singapore, physical space is very cost-prohibitive."

The council - comprising ex-national swimmers Chan, Ang Peng Siong and Tay Chin Joo, and National Institute of Education senior lecturer Nick Aplin - also aims to compile a virtual archive of records and achievements.

"We have forged a partnership with the National Archives, primarily because sport is part of history in Singapore," Chan said.

"It isn't eventually going to be about achievement, but in the long run, we will discover that the culture of swimming very much mirrors the culture of Singapore."

While sifting through names and records, Chan said the team uncovered interesting facts about the nation and its people.

"In learning about the history of who's who and who did what, you inadvertently stumble on political, social and community scenarios.

"So, what happens is you begin to humanise not just the names or gold medals; these are people who really overcame so much to be where they were," she said.

The council plans to gather profiles and anecdotes by getting the public to write in.

"We want people who remembered certain things at a certain time to share that and put it into what would be a virtual space," Chan said.

"The point about legacy is it doesn't matter if you swam once for Singapore or didn't make the team, you're still part of this tapestry."

- AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD

Don't pressure Schooling, says ex-Golden Girl Pat

Swim great Chan does not want pressure to distract youngster

"I know this boy, he will give his utmost; that’s his nature and that’s what makes him a champion, whatever the outcome." — Former great Patricia Chan on Joseph Schooling (above)

The country's original "Golden Girl", one-time swim queen Patricia Chan has been through it all.

She carried the weight of the nation on her shoulders en route to 39 gold medals at the South-east Asian Peninsular Games (now the South-east Asia Games), she won medals at the Asian Games and competed at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

She had to endure media scrutiny, was constantly asked about her medal chances and was never left alone when she failed to meet expectations.

So when the subject of Joseph Schooling comes up, Chan has some advice for Singapore - ease off the pressure.

"I used to have the press write how many medals I was going to win, and it was the most irritating thing," the 62-year-old said yesterday on the sidelines of an aquatics exhibition at the Kallang Wave Mall.

"For young people to have that pressure on them, you have to respect what he wants to do and (separate it from) what he ought to do."

Excitement is building as the clock ticks down to the Olympics in Rio from Aug 5 to 21, with a growing number believing butterfly sprint star Schooling can deliver Singapore's first Olympic gold.

Schooling is in the form of his life in the 200m butterfly, which will also see American superstar Michael Phelps in the field.

Chan warned against such predictions.

"In my lifetime of watching a lot of the Olympics, there's always somebody, somewhere who's a dark horse," she said.

"We would love for Joseph to do spectacularly, but to speculate, many slip, as they say."

At just 20 and 19 respectively, Schooling and fellow Olympic 'A' qualifier Quah Zheng Wen have big futures ahead of them, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will probably be an even better bet for the duo.

POSER

But, with the pair set to fulfil their National Service (NS) duties - they were both granted deferments by Mindef to be able to concentrate on preparing for this year's Games - after their commitments in Rio, questions have been raised on how the two talented swimmers could be helped to become even better for 2020.

Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) marketing and communications director Mohamed Hafidz said yesterday the SSA are unaware of any plans for a second deferment for either of the two athletes.

"In terms of planning, we don't know what Mindef is going to do. So for the two of them, it's going to be competing at the Olympics and then coming back to Singapore," he said.

Hafidz said there could be a case for athletes to combine NS with elite-level training.

"Sport Singapore, SSA and Mindef are always in talks on how we can actually do that," he said.

"We're already talking to them about our next generation of athletes, those who are 16 and 17, and how we can help."

For Chan, deferring NS for top-level athletes is a "big decision".

But even if Schooling were to fall short at August's sporting extravaganza, Chan said Singaporeans should not come down too hard on him.

"What we have to learn as a nation is to understand maturely that everyone has good and bad days, and in a bad time, encouragement does a lot more than criticism," she said.

"I know this boy, he will give his utmost; that's his nature and that's what makes him a champion, whatever the outcome."

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New Villa owner Xia will spend to reinforce team for promotion push

Xia Jiantong, the chairman of Recon Group.

The Chinese magnate buying English newly relegated football club Aston Villa said his company could pay more than £100 million for the club, but would not be "burning money" to turn the team around.

The deal, which would drop to about £75 million if the club do not get back into the English Premier League (EPL) next season, will see the chairman of little-known Recon Group, Xia Jiantong, become the first mainland Chinese to fully own an English team.

Xia revealed yesterday that the club would spend £30-40 million on players for next season.

That would be a hefty budget for a team in English football's second tier, but not for the EPL.

"The club won't take the path of burning money; we are a business, not funded by Arab oil wealth," he said, in a statement yesterday.

Xia said yesterday that Villa were one of eight EPL clubs he had considered buying.

He went on to reveal he was in talks with various teams in Spain and Italy for potential acquisitions within three years, and was also in talks in China and India.

Beijing has ploughed huge sums into grassroots academies, television rights, transfer deals for overseas players and investment in clubs abroad, as China work hard to see if they can qualify for the World Cup again.

Recon Group, which has a controlling interest in five publicly listed companies on the Hong Kong and Chinese stock exchanges, said it was in talks to appoint a new Villa manager who has won the Champions League.

RUMOURS

That will stoke the rumours that Roberto di Matteo, who as caretaker Chelsea manager won European football's top competition in 2011-12, is favourite for the job.

Xia said the club were already considering specific candidates after more than a month of searching and an announcement could come within two to three weeks.

Villa said Xia's immediate objective was "to return Aston Villa to the Premier League and then to have the club finish in the top six, bringing European football back to Villa Park".

Villa's American owner Randy Lerner, who put the club on the market in 2014, struck the deal after former English champions Villa suffered a miserable season, ending bottom of the EPL, with only half the points of the second worst team.

The deal with American-educated Xia, 39, ends an unhappy tenure for Lerner, who bought the club for £62.2 million in 2006.

Fans had openly demonstrated against his continued involvement with Villa, who were European champions in 1982 and have won the English top-flight title seven times, most recently in 1980-81.

Xia, who said he had played football in middle school and dreamed of owning a club since his time in university, declined to say how long he had been in talks with Villa, but they had begun before it was clear the team would be relegated. - Reuters.

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