Singapore's underwater hockey teams rise above all
Both Singapore men's and women's teams - who are self-funded - clinch the first gold medals in the sport, which is making its SEA Games debut
Singapore's underwater hockey teams made history yesterday as both the men and women won the first two golds in the sport, which is making its inaugural appearance at the SEA Games.
The men thrashed hosts Philippines 5-0 in the 4x4 final at the Vermosa Sports Hub on the outskirts of Manila. The women followed suit with a 4-2 win over the Philippines to complete the double.
The men's win might look like a landslide, but national men's coach David Lambert was adamant that the Filipinos were a formidable outfit.
"It was tough, the Filipinos really worked hard on their home ground. But the guys had a solid game and it was truly a team effort," he said in a phone interview with The New Paper.
"They had many locals supporting them and the atmosphere was quite intense. We could hear them cheering even underwater."
Lambert credited captain Jonathan Chan and vice-captain Jerryl Twang for guiding the team to victory.
He said: "The captains were phenomenal in leading the guys. With their encouragement, the team worked together and got the gold."
Also known as octopush, the sport originated in England. Two teams don snorkelling masks and use a 35cm stick to push a bright-coloured puck into their opponent's goal .
Singapore's victories were even more remarkable as none of them are full-time athletes. Out of the 12 members in the men's team, 11 are working professionals, while one is a student.
Chan, who is a pilot, praised the team for their commitment.
The 34-year-old said: "We are self-funded and reserved our (work) leaves to train abroad. When coach isn't around, I would fill in.
"I'm very proud of the boys and how they played in the final. We peaked at the right moment and pulled together when it mattered."
The women's team vice-captain Sheena Soh echoed Chan's sentiments. The 28-year-old actuary attributed the team's success to perseverance and passion.
She said: "My teammates and I have full-time jobs, so some try to train before and others after work. I'm fortunate to have bosses who supported my journey, and it's paid off."
"I'm also really grateful to the Singaporeans who came to Manila to support us. Hearing their cheers really spurred us to give our all and win."
Both teams have a chance to make it a clean sweep as they are also in the 6x6 event, which continues today.
But both coaches played down expectations.
Lambert said: "We're just taking it game by game... focused on the here and now.
"We've trained a lot. It's going to be challenging but we're going to fight hard again."
Women's coach Lena Plambeck said: "The 6x6 is a totally different game, so we're going in with no expectations and we'll give it our best." - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ADEENA NAGIB