Singapore win first SEA Games equestrian jumping team gold in its history
Singapore win first gold in equestrian team event and may also bag top honours in tomorrow's individual battle
Singapore's riders put in a flawless performance yesterday to earn the Republic's first equestrian jumping team gold in the history of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
And, judging by their form, Singapore's riders could well be in the thick of the battle for gold in the individual event tomorrow at the Turf Club Riding Centre.
The team gold is a huge leap for the Republic, who came in sixth in the same event at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar.
Said 18-year-old Cheong Su Yen: "This SEA Games we were on our own horses as opposed to last Games, when we were on borrowed horses."
Teammate Janine Khoo, added: "The crowd was very enthusiastic here, and I remember in Myanmar there was hardly any noise when we performed.
"It's definitely a different feel and atmosphere altogether."
Riders Catherine Chew, Predrag Marjanovic and Su Yen finished the first round without picking up any penalty points - they were in joint-first place with two others in the battle to qualify for the individual event - giving the hosts an early lead.
Khoo had four penalty points and, with only the best three results going into the final score, Singapore were in the driver's seat.
The Singapore team went into the second and final round with high expectations.
"Of course there was a lot more pressure, Malaysia were right on our tails," said Chew, 26.
"But we've got good riders and we've got good horses - we just needed to put it together."
Only Singapore and Malaysia had four riders each, which was a distinct advantage compared to the other teams who only had three.
In the second and final round, all four Singapore riders cleared their jumps without a penalty to seal top spot.
Malaysia had a clumsier round, chalking up 16 penalty points to make it a total of 18 and settling for the silver, while Thailand took bronze with 20 penalty points.
Myanmar (84 penalty points) and Indonesia (91 penalty points), who won silver and gold in the 2013 SEA Games, respectively, finished fourth and fifth. Both suffered shock exits in the final round because of double refusals - when a horse fails to jump a fence.
While the Singapore girls celebrated a historic gold, Khoo had to come to terms with the fact that she would not be able to defend her individual crown.
She was in joint-sixth place out of 21 riders yesterday, and with one NOC allowed to field only three in the individual contest, it meant the 2013 SEA Games jumping champion would not be able to defend her title.
The top 15 riders will be in the jumping individual final tomorrow, including Brunei's Pg Mohd Nasir Pg Anak Ja'afar and Malaysia's Sharmini C Ratnasingham, who were in joint-first place with Chew, Cheong and Marjanovic in yesterday's qualifying race.
Khoo, who was on Snoopnose, was a little disappointed, but said: "The most important thing is that we have three really strong riders from Singapore going into the final."
Explaining her early four-penalty-point stumble, the 17-year-old said: "My first round was a little bit tense, that might have been transferred to her."
"But I'm really proud of her actually, she really tried hard," added Khoo, referring to her 10-year-old horse Snoopnose, who was making her SEA Games debut.
Jumping team coach Lukas Ibrachim credited Khoo for bouncing back with a "super" second round.
"We prepared her, but sometimes, you also need luck," he said.