Thailand sweep all golds in boccia at Para Games
Singapore mixed pair team (BC3) upset in battle for gold
They won gold at the last edition of the Asean Para Games in Myanmar and were looking for a repeat on home soil at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
The Singapore boccia team of Toh Sze Ning, Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha and substitute Faye Lim got off to a good start in the mixed pairs BC3 final, scoring two points after the first round against the Thais.
That was when the Thais got going, though, as the trio of Tanimpat Visaratanunta, Ekkarat Chaemchoi and substitute Somboon Chaipanich matched their opponents point for point in the second round, before storming ahead by five points in the third.
The Thais eventually clinched the gold with a final score of 7-3, completing a sweep of all seven events in boccia at the Games.
Thailand team manager Mayuree Suphawibul was surprised by the team's dominance.
"We exceeded our expectations. That's good," she said.
"I didn't expect it because Singapore are better than Thailand in the BC3 mixed pairs."
Singapore's mixed pair are currently ranked world No. 7, three places ahead of Thailand.
While Singapore boccia team manager Kenneth Soh knew that they had the best chance for gold yesterday, he was always wary of the strength of the Thais.
"For the BC3 pair, Thailand are comparable in terms of world rankings. So when you make a mistake or two, they're going to make sure you pay for it. It's the same for us," he said.
"At this level, it's only about who makes fewer mistakes.
"It's no longer about who plays better."
Nurulasyiqah won an individual gold and the mixed pairs gold in Myanmar, but finished with only a silver this time.
"I'm a little disappointed, but we did our best," she said.
"The match itself will actually spur us to train a lot harder for the upcoming 2016 Boccia World Individual Championships next March and moving towards the Paralympic Games in Rio."
Soh hopes the sport will see greater participation on the Asean stage to benefit not just his players, but also the region.
"Thailand have Paralympic medallists and are clearly the strongest, but if you have a few more countries competing, you can have fun and really grow the sport," he said.
"Otherwise, it'll always be Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand competing in boccia at the Asean Para Games"
He already has a target in mind for the next edition of the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
"We hope to reclaim the gold medal - both the mixed individual and the pair (for BC3).
"As for the other categories, I'm also quite confident that they (the players) can do well."