Floorballers ready for cold battle in Prague
S'pore confident of bettering previous-best 12th place after Finland training stint
For Singapore floorball coach Matti Joutsikoski, 1 deg C in sunny Prague, Czech Republic, is the perfect weather.
His charges may feel the same way as the Finn now but, nearly three weeks ago, it was a lot tougher on the national men's team in Finland.
The Singapore team embarked on an 18-day training camp in the southern Finnish city of Tampere, where temperatures averaged 3 deg C, as the squad prepared for the World Floorball Championship (WFC) which kicks off tomorrow.
The training stint at renowned club sides such as SC Classic and Turun Palloseura is the first for Singapore ahead of a WFC and captain Syazni Ramlee, who will be appearing in his fourth WFC, says his side are reaping the benefits of their European sojourn.
"Previously, we never had a training camp before heading to a world championship, so we didn't have a lot of time to get adjusted to the climate," Syazni, 27, told The New Paper.
"The first week was tough, not only adjusting to the climate but also the intense training. However, being focused on achieving our training objectives and, of course, with time, we managed to ready ourselves for the tournament."
Teammate Lim Jian Hong concurred, saying that the right mindset played a big role in acclimatising.
"The start wasn't easy," the 23-year-old forward said.
"But the mindset was that we are going to be here to train in this climate, so it's about focusing on the training and letting ourselves get used to the climate, among other things.
"We know the weather in Prague is similar, so we concentrated on the training aspects while adjusting to the climate over time and, now, we are ready for the WFC."
The time spent in Tampere was also for the purpose of peaking in time for the team's first match against Canada on Sunday.
"We did a lot of preparatory work back home, the training was curated throughout the year and so the vigorous preparation in Finland did not come as a radical change... Now the boys are all fit and ready,"Joutsikoski said.
But perhaps the biggest upshot of their training camp remains the most understated.
So fruitful has the time together been that the team have fostered a bond that spills onto the court, and that is what Joutsikoski feels is Singapore's biggest strength - teamwork.
"We had the opportunity to train alongside and play against world-class players, and that has given us a lot of confidence, a lot of evidence that we are in a very good shape," the 51-year-old Finn said.
"We recognise that the Canadian side have a good coaching team, brilliant individual players and that many of their players have played together for several years.
"But our strength is our teamwork and we don't rely on individuals to carry the team. We have excellent teamwork and that's equally effective against teams who have a bundle of talents or teams with a systematic way of playing."
Added Syazni: "I have a good feeling about this team. The players are looking after one another and it looks like this team are one of our best heading into a world championship."
If Syazni's confidence is anything to go by, then Joutsikoski's conviction that Singapore, ranked 17th in the world, can outdo their predecessors at the biennial tournament remains a realistic possibility.
Their best finish at a WFC was in the inaugural competition in 1996 when they were 12th.
For this edition, Singapore are in Group D, along with Slovakia (world No. 10), Canada (12th) and Japan (16th) in the 16-team tournament.
To better a 12th-placed finish, they will have to finish within the top-two spots in Group D to ensure reaching the play-offs for the top-12 spots.
Finishing in the bottom two will result in classification for the 13th spot and below.
While Lim agrees with his coach's assertion, the Nanyang Technological University undergraduate, feels that results should not be the end-goal but, instead, the team should concentrate on the "process" to achieve the target of a best-ever WFC showing.
"Results are not in our control, so I don't see the value in focusing on that," said the forward, whose only previous WFC appearance was in 2012 as a 17-year-old.
"Instead, we should focus on the process.
"If we give our best and apply what we have learnt, we can execute the process which in turn is likely to help us attain the right results."