SEA Games chef de mission: An A- for Team Singapore
But athletics and football come under criticism for under-par performances
Team Singapore put in a "brilliant" display at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, and deserve an "A-" grade for their performances, according to chef de mission Milan Kwee.
However, there is room for improvement, as athletics and football came under fire from Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) officials at the official debrief yesterday afternoon.
The 560-strong Singapore contingent delivered its best away Games haul of 57 gold, 58 silver and 73 bronze medals, beating its previous best performance in Korat, Thailand in 2007 (43-43-41).
It was also Singapore's second-best performance at the SEA Games overall, after the 2015 edition on home soil (84-73-102).
Said Kwee: "It has been a brilliant display by Team Singapore in Kuala Lumpur with debutants punching above their weight, seasoned athletes delivering as expected and surprises in bowling, golf and cycling which gave everyone something to delight in.
"A best away medal haul and the second-best ever performance by Team Singapore at the SEA Games - this is one performance Singaporeans can be proud of.
"Overall, we are pleased with the efforts and performance of Team Singapore and glad that this has been a safe and successful outing.
"While the team did well, there were also improvements to be made and so we feel an A-minus grade is befitting.
"We hope their results at the 29th SEA Games will be an indication of bigger things to come."
Among the highlights for Singapore in Kuala Lumpur were breakthroughs in men's cycling (a first gold medal in 20 years), golf (a first men's team gold in 28 years), squash (a first team gold in 22 years), and bowling (a first men's team gold in 22 years).
Figure skaters Yu Shuran and Chloe Ing also clinched the Republic's first SEA Games winter sports gold and silver medals.
Overall, 15 SEA Games records, 12 national records, and 29 personal bests were achieved.
However, Singapore Sports Institute chief Toh Boon Yi and SNOC general secretary Chris Chan did not mince their words when asked about athletics and football.
In-fighting within national track and field body Singapore Athletics dominated headlines in the lead-up to the SEA Games, while the national Under-22 football team were booted out at the group stage after losing their opening two matches against Myanmar and Malaysia.
On football, Toh said: "You know their performance. Are we happy? Obviously we're not.
"There's obviously a lot of interest in football, it's almost our undeclared national sport, and we want our teams to do well.
"So there's a lot of work to be done as we go back home, to continue to build football."
Toh was equally critical of athletics, which produced only two gold medallists - marathoner Soh Rui Yong and high jumper Michelle Sng - and described the sport's overall performance as "not pulling their weight".
He noted, however, that the development of a proper pathway for track and field athletes will not "happen overnight", and will take "mutiple Games cycles".
Chan, who said athletics' two gold medals were "way below par" as a return, added: "In athletics, specifically what they have to do is to work on their pathway, improve their system, look at the club scene, look at how perhaps a national level junior squad can be formed.
"Athletics could well take a leaf out of what swimming has done. These are the two compulsory sports in SEA Games, all with a large number of medals to be had.
"The nature of the sports are also similar, they're all timed events, just that one happens on the track and one happens in the water.
"The situation is rather similar but, in terms of outcome and performance, they're at two extreme ends of the spectrum.
"We don't worry too much whether they eventually get a gold or silver or bronze, the issue is their timing - are we competitive? Do we have a reasonable shot at the event?
"There are 45 events, and we should be (competitive) in more than two thirds of them, in the long run. Then we can say we are happy with the situation."
Overall, the officials were delighted with the performance of Team Singapore's athletes.
Toh revealed that the original minimum target for the contingent was 44 gold medals.
"In all major Games, you win some and you lose some - in table tennis, we didn't get a clean sweep," he said.
"So do you look at the five gold medals (in table tennis) as five gained or two gold medals lost?
"If we had only one more gold medal, what would have happened to the medal tally? Very different story.
"Having said that, our expectation was that we were reasonably confident to be in the 40s. When we exceeded 50, we were elated.
"Ultimately, when you look at the numbers, everyone was very pleased with the overall outcome.
"Kudos to everyone who has been working in front and behind the scenes, the athletes, the parents and the support staff."