SEA Games: One aims to retain gold, the other wants to regain it
Women's water polo team aim to avenge loss in 2015, while the men's team hope to maintain perfect record
The tears they shed two years ago may have long dried up, but the hurt of losing the gold medal was never forgotten.
The national women's water polo team have been using their heart-breaking loss to Thailand in the 2015 SEA Games as motivation for this coming edition in Kuala Lumpur.
Then, they had entered the final tie with Thailand, needing just a draw in the top-of-the-table clash to clinch the gold.
Despite scoring a competition-high of 48 goals in their previous three matches, an off-key Singapore were pipped 5-4 by the Thais.
Captain Gina Koh skippered the team then, and said the failure in their title defence has made them hungrier for success this time around.
Women's water polo was first included as a SEA Games event in 2011 in Indonesia, where the Singapore team won gold.
But it was not offered during the 2013 Games in Myanmar.
Asked if the team were aiming to go one better than their silver medal in 2015, the 25-year-old said at the Changi Airport yesterday: "Definitely, that loss (to Thailand) by one goal... we were really upset about it, but it didn't really demoralise us.
"It pushed us further, to work harder. We are more prepared this time to go over there and clinch the gold medal."
Men's national coach Lee Sai Meng, who was redesignated to coach the women's national team this year, said he would work on aspects such as the players' mobility.
Also, the team went for a training camp in Japan in May.
Last month, they also had 2012 China water polo champions, Sichuan Lohas Fish women's team, over at the OCBC Aquatic Centre for sparring sessions.
They will start their campaign against Indonesia tomorrow.
"Ever since we had a new coach, the team have been more stable. We worked on our weaknesses more and I think good results came with all our efforts put in," Koh said, before both the men's and women's teams departed for KL yesterday.
"We are really prepared for the Games this time around, and we hope to show some results over there."
For men's captain Loh Zhi Zhi, the KL Games will be his fourth SEA Games campaign.
But still, the 27-year-old acknowledged yesterday that he still has butterflies in his stomach ahead of the Games.
"I think it's just natural to have some nerves; if it's important to you, it's natural to have some," said Loh, chuckling nervously.
"(The SEA Games) are important to me, the team and for the sport as a whole. I definitely have some nerves but I'm feeling good too."
The men's team were bolstered by the appointment of former Yugoslavia national youth player Dejan Milakovic, who aspires to guide the team to a top-four finish at next year's Asian Games.
The team competed in the four-nation Singapore Water Polo Challenge Cup in June, when they finished third, behind Iran and Serbia Under-20, and ahead of UNSW Wests.
Also, they were in Japan for about 10 days late last month for centralised training, during which they sparred against local club sides in a bid to win their 27th consecutive SEA Games gold medal.
Loh said: "We are confident in the process, confident in what the coach has prepared for us and done with us over the last six months.
"Just from the sparring alone, I think we are feeling good... and then all we can do is trust in the process, trust in what the coach has prepared us to do."