S'pore floorballers survive scare to beat Thailand in final
Singapore women pushed to the brink in shoot-out victory; men bag gold after rout
Favourites to win both golds in floorball, the Singapore men coasted to victory in their final, but the Singapore women endured a harrowing clash against Thailand which had the huge partisan crowd on the edge of their seats, before they claimed victory in a penalty shoot-out at ITE College Central yesterday.
Floorball made its debut at this SEA Games, and the Singapore women took to the arena first in the final against a Thai team who were assembled in just five months.
No one expected what was to follow.
In a tough and thrilling fight, the match ended in a 3-3 deadlock, with no additional goals scored in the 10 minutes of sudden death extra time.
It went down to penalties.
Thailand's Sunaree Thoengkhunthod converted one effort, but Singapore went one better, scoring two out of five attempts to clinch gold and prompt wild celebrations on the court and in the stands.
Goalkeeper Fariza Begum was the hero of the day, drawing thunderous applause from the home crowd after keeping out all but one of the Thai penalty takers.
"They were hungry this time round, they read our game play during the preliminaries and they gave us a tough fight," said Fariza, after the win.
"Of course the deserving team will win in the end and Singapore did just that."
Singapore's women's team coach Jaime Cheong admitted the game was tighter than expected.
"But when it came down to penalties I was very confident that Fariza and the rest of our players would pull it off," she said.
Cheong, who was the national coach at the 2013 Myanmar Games when floorball was a demonstration sport, commended her players for balancing training with work and study commitments.
"In terms of technical skills, we deserve to win. In terms of the way we played, we can improve on it, but the team really trained hard."
For Thai captain Nina Marianne Suppa, losing in such circumstances was difficult to take.
"Actually, we haven't practised anything on penalties," said the Thai-Swede.
"I couldn't be more proud of my girls for practising for just five months."
The 1,100-strong home crowd did not have to wait long for another celebration. The men's team gave the fans what they came for, running riot in their final as they blitzed their Thai counterparts 9-0.
"This is first time floorball is in the SEA Games, so we wanted to do Singapore proud," said men's coach Saravanan Rajamanikam.
"I told the guys just go all-out and win this game."
Captain Syazni Ramlee, who was hoarse after shouting and motivating his players throughout the game, paid tribute to the home fans.
"They pushed us to score more and play harder, even when we were mentally and physically tired," said Syazni, who was responsible for one goal and three assists.
While the Thais collected two silvers, Malaysia claimed bronze in the men's event. They did not receive a bronze in the women's event as rules dictate there will only be two medallists if there are just three countries participating in the competition.