Water polo boys in 27th heaven
Indonesia blip inspires water polo boys to maintain stranglehold on SEA Games crown
Their aura of invincibility was built up over decades of excellence in the pool, one that saw Singapore maintain a stranglehold on the SEA Games men's water polo gold medal.
But, within one half of a match last Friday, all that evaporated.
Taking a 3-1 lead over Indonesia into the second half at Bukit Jalil's National Aquatic Centre, the Singapore men contrived to fall 4-3 behind in the final period.
It took an equaliser from Ang An Jun to save Singapore's blushes and that lesson was well learnt by the water polo boys.
They went into their final round-robin fixture yesterday needing to beat hosts Malaysia by at least two goals and, this time, there was to be no close shave.
Singapore blew their Causeway rivals away with a 17-4 win to secure a 27th straight gold medal in the sport.
"After that draw (against Indonesia), we realised that we have to be reckless and do whatever we want in the game," said Yip Yang.
"We conceded goals in the Indonesia match because of our lapses in concentration, and we saw that we can't just rely on our coach to keep us focused.
"After that game, all of us knew that we had to look to the next game against Malaysia and do what we are capable of.
The feeling now is joy, for sure it's great to preserve Singapore sports' longest winning streak, and we do want to enjoy this moment. Yip Yang
"It is disappointing that we didn't show our real standard at these Games and, against Malaysia, we were just focused on bringing out our best," added the 26-year-old.
True to their word, Yip and Co. took only four minutes to open the scoring, as Singapore raced to a 6-1 half-time lead.
The Republic were even more rampant after the break, scoring 11 more goals in the remaining two periods to prove that they are still the premier water polo side in the region.
"The feeling now is joy, for sure it's great to preserve Singapore sports' longest winning streak, and we do want to enjoy this moment," said Yip.
The next major assignment will be the 2018 Asian Games, which will be hosted in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.
Now that Indonesia had given Singapore a mighty scare at the SEA Games, they could well be eyeing a Singapore scalp on home soil next year.
"We have to make sure we keep getting better," said Yip.
"Our regional rivals are catching up, and Indonesia are one of our toughest competitors, so they definitely put some pressure on us with that draw.
"The Indonesians are now saying that they'll definitely beat us at the next Games, but those are big words which they will have to live up to."
Yip revealed that the team will likely get only a couple of weeks off before gearing up for a yet to be confirmed participation in a competition in Malta in October.
For now, Yip is just looking forward to some time away from the pool.
"We want to take some time to enjoy this win," he said, chuckling.
"But some of us took time off from work to prepare for the Games, so now there's some catching up to do."