Beach volleyball trailblazers serve without fear
Beach volleyball pair Lau and Ong unfazed despite being underdogs ahead of Games debut
It will be a momentous occasion for beach volleyballers Lau Ee Shan and Ong Wei Yu when they step onto the court at the Gold Coast's Coolangatta Beachfront on Saturday.
The pair will make history in Australia as the first to represent Singapore in the sport at the Commonwealth Games.
But they remain calm and are determined not to let the pressure dictate their performance.
In their first competition together, the unranked duo hope to improve their game and learn from the experience. Said the 23-year-old Ong: "For now, the pressure isn't there yet, but I think it will be there when we're there.
"We are debuting and I want us to play our best, leave the court with no regrets and just enjoy the game - instead of beating ourselves up over whatever mistakes we make."
Lau, 21, will be hoping to immerse herself and learn from her first international competition.
She added: "Since it's a major Games, we'll get to enjoy the atmosphere.It's not something we can always see.
"When there are external factors, try to manage myself. That's the main goal."
Ong, in contrast, has participated in several competitions with the national team in the past four years, including last year's South-east Asia Beach Volleyball Championship where she came in fifth with Serene Ng.
To cope with the pressure, Ong and Lau have been working on techniques like visualisation, breathing exercises and meditation.
The pair came together only earlier this year, but they do not think they will fall short against opponents who have been playing together for a longer time.
Ong said: "If two people come together and have the same goal and they work towards it, then nothing should be an obstruction."
Also, they may be a newly assembled pair on the sand, but they are not strangers on the indoor volleyball court.
Lau and Ong played for the same indoor volleyball team, so they did not have to build their partnership from scratch.
They have set themselves a top-five target but acknowledged it won't be easy considering the strong field in Australia.
But coach Dean Martin, 30, believes his charges have what it takes.
Said the Canadian: "The way we want to approach this whole situation is to play fearless.
"We have nothing to lose, so we're going to go out there and play at 100 per cent without fear."
To prepare themselves, Lau and Ong have played teams from other countries like Hong Kong.
They have also polished certain aspects of their game, including improving their stamina, strength and mindset to make up for the disparity in experience and physique.
Martin is confident of reaching the top-five target.
Praising his team for their commitment and progress, he said: "The girls are playing a lot smarter, playing with intelligence, playing with strategy and purpose - which is great.
"It adds another layer, another dimension that we're otherwise not used to so.
"We're looking forward to seeing how that will develop in the game."