Silat's boosted by seven golds
Twenty-two years ago, only two of the seven Singapore silat finalists won gold at the 17th South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
At the 5th South-east Asian Pencak Silat Championships, which ended yesterday at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall, there were once again seven Singaporeans who reached the final.
With the 28th SEA Games being held here in June, Singapore silat received a welcome boost when all seven emerged victorious.
With a total of 19 medals, Singapore (7 gold, 2 silver, 10 bronze) emerged as the top nation overall, ahead of second-placed Malaysia (6-3-5) and Vietnam (5-11-2), who finished third.
The SEA Games return to these shores for the first time in 22 years and will be held here from June 5 to 16.
Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) chief Sheik Alau'ddin is determined to ensure that complacency does not get in the way of the athletes' final preparations for the Games.
"The objective of this tournament was to test the athletes' readiness for the SEA Games, but that doesn't mean we should relax now," said Sheik, who was one of the two gold medallists at the 1993 Games on home soil.
Nevertheless, the three-time SEA Games gold medallist added that he was "very happy" with the results of the meet. "Now, all of them must perform well at the SEA Games," he said.
The national silat exponents have no intention of resting on their laurels. They will resume training tomorrow after a day's rest.
Men's artistic singles gold medallist Iqbal Abdul Rahman will first be busy analysing his performance on video to identify areas of weakness.
"(My result) is a stepping stone and it is motivation for me to train harder," said Iqbal.
Fellow gold medallist and reigning Class F (70kg to 75kg) SEA Games champion, Alfian Juma'en, will be working on his kicks.
Shakir Juanda, crowned world champion in 2012, defeated Malaysia's Mohd Robial Sobri in the men's Class H (80kg to 85kg) final yesterday to clinch Singapore's seventh gold medal.
The 27-year-old, who lost to Robial at last year's Uzbekistan Open, admitted he was 'nervous' before the match.
"I watched him fight yesterday and noticed that he had improved," said Shakir, who also won a bronze with partner Sheik Ferdous Sheik Alau'ddin in the men's artistic doubles event.
In the end, Shakir proved too strong. He added that the win boosted his confidence going into the SEA Games, as Robial had defeated Indonesian Tri Juanda Samsul Bahar - whom he lost to at the 16th World Pencak Silat Championships in January - en route to the final.
Ferdous, son of the Persisi president, matched Shakir's medal feat when he won the Class E (65kg to 70kg) event after opponent Nguyen Van Curong was disqualified.
"I feel more confident about the SEA Games now," said Ferdous, who was named Best Male Athlete of the event.
"But the Malaysian world champion (Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari) wasn't here this time and he's the one to beat.
"I will train hard so that I'll have sharper skills, better focus, and a stronger mind," the 19-year-old vowed.