A unique Olympic link on the cards, says Leonard Thomas
Rio could give Singapore another stirring Olympic moment
At the time, few even thought of the faraway country, and even fewer worked or travelled there.
I daresay Pele was the first genuine connection most Singaporeans had with Brazil.
Like so many around the world, Brazil came alive here the moment the 17-year-old football maestro burst onto the scene in the 1958 World Cup finals.
Much has changed since.
I know some Singaporean friends who live and work in Brazil.
Two years ago, a horde of Singaporeans embarked on a marathon journey, travelling across the globe to enjoy the 2014 World Cup finals in South America's largest country.
Next month, 25 Singapore athletes will be in battle in Brazil's glamour city Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games, threatening to forge a timeless link between the two countries.
Swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, shooters Jasmine Ser and Teo Shun Xie and a clutch of sailors have qualified on merit for the Games - the biggest group in Singapore's Olympic history.
World championship bronze medallist Schooling is gunning for a first swim medal for Singapore and he's not discounting gold.
Our table tennis women, led by world No. 4 Feng Tianwei, is aiming to win a medal for the third successive Games.
Like a torrent, the news out of Brazil has hit preparations like a sledgehammer; the Zika virus, political upheaval, robbery, murder, kidnapping, construction delays, poor sanitation, issues with the Games Village, a sewage-stained sailing venue, unhappy locals, a stunning Russian doping scandal.
Amidst it all, our athletes have gone about their preparations with their game face on, this group are a determined lot.
Singaporeans will feature in seven sports in Rio - table tennis, swimming, sailing, shooting, athletics, badminton and rowing.
The New Paper kicks off its official countdown to the 2016 Olympic Games today featuring sailor Colin Cheng.
The 26-year-old has his feet firmly on the ground as he strives to achieve world-class status in Rio by finishing in the top 10 in the Laser class.
Over the course of our build-up to the opening ceremony on Aug 5, we will feature an athlete from each sport, every one of them with a unique story to tell as they set off for an Olympic adventure.
Some of them could thrill us with their exploits in Rio.
Sadly, there will be no live telecast of the Olympics for Singaporeans and it is an issue that has to be solved by the relevant parties here in time for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Today, though, it is all about the Rio Games, now only eight days away.
Maybe Pele will light the Games cauldron, of course, he never played in the Olympics and Brazil do have a whole host of sporting champions who can carry the honour.
It is always a closely guarded secret and the organisers may well pull off a surprise over how the flame is lit. When it begins to burn, Singapore will brace itself.
Weightlifter Tan Howe Liang ensured Singapore sport will forever fondly remember Rome when he won the country's first Olympic medal with a silver in the Eternal City in 1960.
Our table tennis women struck it rich in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Singapore sport could forever be linked with Rio after the first Olympic Games in South America.
Who would have thought that when Pele lit up the beautiful game 56 years ago.
I want this to be an Olympics of no apologies and no regrets for Jasmine. She didn't qualify for London 2012 and competed on a wildcard, but she has qualified for Rio 2016. I saw how over the last four years she made it there step by step, the intense preparation and effort she put in to get there. My family and close friends will follow the action closely on www.results.sius. com/ which is a great site that shows the live score on a target board.
— Shooter Jasmine Ser's sister, Adrienne (above)