Phua and Rhamanan end 20 years of hurt for Singapore squash
The pressure was intense on court and out in the stands.
All hopes were pinned on them, to end 20 years of hurt in the sport and an expectant crowd had come out desperately hoping to be witnesses.
In the end, it turned out Singapore's Marcus Phua and Vivian Rhamanan had it well under control, as they won Singapore's first SEA Games gold in squash since 1995 when they clinched the men's doubles jumbo final last night.
In a straightforward encounter, the Singapore pair trounced Indonesia's Ade Furkon and Sandi A Perdana 11-3, 11-8 at the Tanglin Club to chalk up another gold in a record-breaking Games for the hosts.
The men's jumbo doubles event, held for the first time at the Games, was Singapore's final hope for a squash gold.
The men had already fallen to Malaysia in the team final, while the hosts managed three bronze medals in the singles and one in the women's team event.
"It's a relief," said Phua, after victory last night.
BREAK FROM WORK
"The pressure came from ourselves as well, because of all the hard work we had put in. I took six months off work in order to be able to compete in the SEA Games on home ground and this gold medal has made it all worthwhile."
"I always dreamt of this victory as a teenager," said Vivian.
"We wanted to prove that we could do it and it's amazing and overwhelming to have won."
The Singapore pair had nothing but praise for their Indonesian opponents.
"They're a really strong pair who have improved a lot since the last time we played them," said Phua, 26.
"They wanted the gold as much as we did."
His playing partner, who is also the assistant national coach, was optimistic over how the win will raise the sport's profile in Singapore.
Singapore last won golds in squash in the women's singles (Mah Li Lian) and the men's team event at the 1995 SEA Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"We did it for Singapore and the squash fraternity here. We are hoping this helps to grow the sport in Singapore," said the 29-year-old Vivian.
BACK ON THE MAP
"I really hope that we can reach out to young players who are hungry to succeed in sports and will give their best after they see that squash is an avenue where they can get recognition."
Nicholas Fang, Singapore's co-chef de mission at these Games, shared that sentiment.
"This gold medal will hopefully galvanise and remind people how exciting squash can be, and put squash back on the map," he said.
"But the critical problem the sport faces in Singapore is the lack of infrastructure - the courts that we have are limited in number and not able to accommodate large audiences.
"We need large audiences who will come to watch the games, along with more squash courts so more kids can start to play."
President of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association, Woffles Wu, is optimistic over the future of a sport that once featured a clutch of world-class local players.
"Squash has been in the doldrums for nearly two decades and it has taken us this long to get a gold medal again," he said.
"We're obviously ecstatic and over the moon about it. With very little resources, we have managed to come through. I think this augurs well for the sport in Singapore.
"We have received news that squash will be contested in the next SEA Games (2017 Kuala Lumpur) and the Asian Games (2018 Jakarta) and we're very hopeful that today's win will turn our fortunes around to do well in those competitions."