Bridging the gap: Singapore win historic gold in contract bridge
Singapore men's contract bridge team win historic gold at Asiad
They got the nod to represent Singapore at the Asian Games only after winning an appeal in June, and the men's contract bridge team have more than justified that decision by winning a historic gold at the continental meet yesterday.
Contract bridge, a card game, is making its Asian Games debut in Indonesia, with six gold medals on offer.
The Singapore men's team - consisting of captain Loo Choon Chou, Poon Hua, Zhang Yukun, Fong Kien Hoong, Desmond Oh and Kelvin Ong - led in all three segments in yesterday's final against Hong Kong at the JIExpo Kemayoran Ballroom in Jakarta.
Loo, 35, and Poon, 37, are the only professional bridge players in the team. They have been in the sport full-time for four years. Oh and Ong were reserves yesterday.
Loo told The New Paper: "We are very happy our efforts and hard work over the past year have paid off. I really want to thank my teammates for playing well throughout the tournament.
"The match started close after the first segment. But after that, we stayed calm and maintained focus."
Singapore took a 35-26 lead in the first segment, extending it to 73-35 after the second, before sealing a 107-52 victory in the third.
All the hard work and time invested in the training has paid off.Zhang Yukun, a member of the Singapore men's contract bridge team which won gold yesterday
Loo added: "We managed to pull away in the second segment and continued to maintain our lead in the third segment.
"The opponents played well and it could have gone either way. But we held our nerves and pulled through in the end.
"Before the tournament, we didn't have high expectations. But we played well from the start and gathered momentum. Today we had confidence and trust in ourselves."
Zhang, 34, who teaches physics at National Junior College, said: "The competition was tough. I think we have played well. All the hard work and time invested in the training has paid off."
Poon was pleased that their preparation had bore fruit. He said: "We came to this event well-prepared and returned with the gold medal. A great bridge adventure for the Singapore team."
Bridge, which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee as a mind sport, got the nod of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) for this Asiad, following some lobbying from Indonesia's richest man - Michael Bambang Hartono - who also competed at the Games.
The 78-year-old cigarette company owner, who reportedly has a net worth of US$16.7 billion (S$22.79b) from his interests in tobacco, banking and communications, was part of an Indonesian supermixed team which won bronze on Sunday.
Hartono - who reportedly started playing bridge at age six - said he plays the card game to keep his mind sharp.
Singapore team manager Soh Siew Luie hopes the Republic's victory yesterday will help raise the profile of the mind sport.
Said Soh: "The Singapore Contract Bridge Association hopes that this win will help to increase awareness of contract bridge in Singapore, and garner more support for the game.
"The team will continue to train for the next major event, which would be the Asia Pacific Bridge Federation Championships that will be hosted by Singapore in June 2019."