Underdogs, but going for gold
Interim national netball coach Yeo says her charges have no fear of Asian champions Malaysia at SEA Games
The OCBC Arena Hall 3 was filled by a cacophony of bouncing balls and sports shoes squeaking against the parquet floor yesterday evening, as the national netball squad went through their paces on one of the three courts.
The national Under-21 squad were training on an adjacent court, while the national volleyball teams were training on the remaining court, adding to the noise level.
But the racket suits interim national netball coach Yeo Mee Hong just fine. In fact, she wants to add to the din.
"It's going to be loud in Kuala Lumpur, so I want the players to get used to the noise," she said, on the sidelines of President Tony Tan Keng Yam's visits to silat, fencing, netball and volleyball last evening.
"I'd probably even play some loud music during training to get them accustomed to the noise."
In 2015, the national team clinched their first South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal in front of a full house at the OCBC Arena, with the crowd raising the roof during the Republic's 46-43 victory over Malaysia in the final.
Yeo, then the assistant coach to Ruth Aitken, is expecting a similar atmosphere at the Juara Stadium this August, where they will defend their title.
Since the 2015 Games, the team have lost several senior players, such as Micky Lin, Premila Hirubalan and Chen Huifen, while Aitken has returned to her native New Zealand.
With a new-look team, Singapore relinquished their Asian Championship title - which it won on home ground in 2014 - last year and finished third, while Malaysia beat Sri Lanka to clinch the continental crown.
Since that tournament, Yeo said the players have stepped up and are shaping up well, with the national squad to be announced after the Netball Super League (NSL) final next Sunday.
A 14-strong squad will leave for a training tour in Northern Ireland in June, when they will play the hosts, the Republic of Ireland, and Barbados.
Yeo said: "I am very happy with their progress so far, in terms of their fitness, and also the intensity of their play in the NSL. We are the underdogs... but we are definitely playing to win (at the SEA Games), even though Malaysia are the reigning Asian champions."
FIGHT FOR GLORY
Similarly, Fencing Singapore president Juliana Seow promised that her athletes will fight for glory for Singapore at the biennial Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The Republic's fencers clinched three golds, three silvers and seven bronzes in 2015, with two of the titles coming in the team events.
The upcoming Games will not offer team events for the sport, according to Seow.
She said: "We want to manage expectations, not just with ourselves but also with the athletes... but we are going to do our very best."
After visiting the four sports last evening, President Tan said: "They have put in a tremendous amount of work; we should admire them for the effort and discipline and training, and the fact that they are determined to do well for Singapore.
"From what I have seen today, I am very confident that they would do well in Kuala Lumpur and do Singapore proud."