Gymnastics girls plan to make it fourth gold in a row
New-look women's artistic gymnastics team gunning for fourth consecutive SEA Games gold
They may be fielding a young and relatively inexperienced team for the South-east Asia Games (SEA) Games next month.
But Singapore's women's artistic gymnastics team have their eye firmly on the team gold medal -their fourth consecutive gold, to be exact.
They are the defending champions in the team event, having finished first in 2005, 2007 and 2011. Gymnastics was not contested in the 2009 and 2013 editions.
Speaking to The New Paper after the team's final simulation test yesterday, team manager Janssen Ong said that because of the team's reputation, pressure is high despite the fact that none of the members are SEA Games veterans.
"This is a totally new team," Ong said.
"Since Heem Wei left, pressure has been very strong on them to retain the gold medal. But they have remained focused on their training and I'm glad to say that they have been doing very well so far.
"I am quite confident that our girls will do a good job in defending the team title."
Lim Heem Wei, 26, Singapore's most successful gymnast, was part of the gold medal-winning SEA Games teams between 2005 and 2011. The Olympian announced her retirement from the sport last year.
The current team, however, are not exactly new to big occasions. Last year, most of them participated in major events such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Youth Olympic Games.
Nadine Joy Nathan, 16, shone in the Youth Olympics, qualifying for the women's all-around final.
"It was a good experience," she said. "I was still considered a junior last year, so I was hoping to use that event to prepare myself for other competitions."
Her teammates Ashly Lau, 17, Janessa Dai, 17, and Michelle Teo, 17, who all competed in the Commonwealth Games, agreed that the experience will stand them in good stead in front of the home crowd next month.
"We've gotten used to being nervous," said team captain Janessa.
"We've learned to control our nerves and block out the crowd so that we are able to perform."
The team's other members are Kelsie Yasmin Muir, 16, and Zeng Qiyan, 18.
While going for glory is important, Ong said that gaining more experience to become better gymnasts is the priority of the team.
"We are hoping for one or two medals in the individual events, but experience is the main thing that we want the girls to derive from the SEA Games," Ong added.
"We want them to be able to leverage on the experience gained this year in order to be better prepared for future competitions."
Helping to prepare the girls for their SEA Games debut are coaches Tao Xiaomin and Zhu Yibin, who started in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The two had trained Nadine for the 2014 Youth Olympics, and took over the rest of the girls' training late last year.
Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia are expected to give Singapore a run for their money.
In 2011, Heem Wei clinched the bronze medal in the women's all-around event, losing out to Vietnamese gymnasts Phan Thi Ha Thanh and Do Thi Ngan Thuong.
She also lost out to Phan in the floor exercise event to end up with the silver medal.