Wushu exponent Yong Yi Xiang gets an early birthday present
Wushu specialist clinches gold two weeks before turning 26, prepares for events while studying for Bar exam
National wushu exponent Yong Yi Xiang received an unexpected early birthday present yesterday: A shiny gold medal from the 30th SEA Games.
At the World Trade Center in Manila, Yong delivered a flawless performance in the men's changquan final to emerge triumphant, two weeks before his 26th birthday.
He earned 9.70 points, pipping Malaysia's Wong Weng Son (9.68) and Vietnam's Tran Xuan Hiep (9.70) to win Singapore's first gold medal at this edition's Games in the Philippines.
Even though it was not his first gold - he had won in the same event on home soil in 2015 - yesterday's win was still a big shock to him.
Speaking to The New Paper in a phone interview, he said: "It was unimaginable. I was surprised by the high score. I was focused on delivering the best performance I could give and I'm glad I made no mistakes.
"I felt a bit of mental pressure during my warm-up because I didn't do well at my last competition and I wanted to (bounce) back from that."
Yong was gutted after the World Wushu Championships in Shanghai, China, two months ago, when he finished 23rd out of 78 participants in the same event with 9.273 points.
"It was a setback and a low point for me when I went home. I was doubting myself," he added.
"As athletes, everyone goes through high and low points. All we want is to do well and do Singapore proud.
"I'm very happy that everything fell into place."
Team manager Vincent Ng was proud of Yong, saying that the win was a testament of his hard work throughout the year.
"Wushu is getting more competitive at the Games… and anything can happen. It's all up to the performance on the day," said Ng, a three-time SEA Games gold medallist and former world champion.
"Yong is a senior athlete and a very hardworking, responsible one. Everyone knows this.
"He puts in extra training… because he knows that he's not just representing himself, but the nation.
"The wushu team train six times a week but they still come for morning sessions on their own. I'm grateful to all of them for putting in the effort."
Compatriot Jowen Lim, who won gold in 2017, finished sixth with 9.53 points.
In the taijiquan finals, Samuel Tan and Vera Tan finished sixth, while Ho Lin Ying finished eighth.
Yong, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in April, was also balancing between wushu and his Singapore Bar Examinations.
He completed three papers before flying to Manila last Friday and will sit for the last paper the day after he returns. The four that he missed during the Games will be deferred till next year.
In between preparing for his coming events in the daoshu (broad sword) today and gunshu (cudgel) tomorrow, he will find some time to study for his last paper.
"It wasn't a hard decision to make but I did worry about whether I could balance it all," he said, on his juggling act.
"Everything turned out well and the Law Association of Singapore and the wushu association are very supportive of me."
Yong will use yesterday's win as a confidence booster as he bids to win more medals for Singapore.
He said: "I'm still in shock about being the first Singaporean to win a gold this year, but I hope this medal signifies the start of more medals to come for the country."
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