Young guns step up to deliver first SEA Games squash team gold in 22 years
Singapore win first men's team squash gold in 22 years
Their most experienced player Vivian Rhamanan had to sit out the men's team final due to injury.
But, in a sign that bodes well for the future of Singapore squash, the younger players stepped up to beat the Philippines 2-1 at the Nicol David Arena at Bukit Jalil's National Squash Centre yesterday and win the Republic's first SEA Games gold in the event since 1995.
It was Samuel Kang who delivered the clincher when he beat David Pelino 3-0 (11-4, 11-4, 11-5). The 26-year-old said with a laugh: "There's always that hope that I can just sit down and watch them win 2-0.
"At 1-1, playing the decider for the gold medal, there were nerves.
"But I tried to visualise this morning and last night, going through every possible scenario.
"That helped me calm down a little.
"I've played this guy before and I have been working very hard so I was confident in my abilities.
"I knew I had to stay strong because obviously everyone is going to give their best in the final.
"With the crowd behind me, I just pushed on and managed to get that win."
It definitely wasn't a solo effort as Games debutants Benedict Chan and Pang Ka Hoe also did well.
Pang, 21, drew first blood by beating Reymark Begornia 3-0 (11-1, 11-3, 11-6), while 20-year-old Chan put up a good fight against Robert Garcia, who defeated men's singles champion Ng Eain Yow as the Philippines beat favourites Malaysia 2-0 in Monday's semi-finals, before losing 3-1 (11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9).
The Republic's last gold in this event came during Singapore squash's golden era 22 years ago when Zainal Abidin, Peter Hill, Ernest Tan and Anthony Chua won at the 1995 Chiangmai Games.
There was also encouraging results in the women's team event as Singapore took silver after losing 2-1 to Malaysia.
Pamela Chua edged Ooi Kah Yan 3-2 (12-10, 4-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-9) to give Singapore a 1-0 advantage, but the hosts bounced back through Andrea Lee, who beat Mao Shi Hui 3-0 (11-8, 11-6, 11-6).
Sneha Sivakumar, still just 16, then lost 3-0 (4-11, 6-11, 4-11) to Aifa Azman in the decider.
Rhamanan, who had earlier retained the men's jumbo doubles gold with Kang, hopes to get more support in terms of funding and facilities to grow the sport.
The 31-year-old said: "The future is really bright for Singapore squash.
"These guys have stepped up from junior to senior (level) and performed to their best.
"We are extremely proud of them.
"This hard work has been going on for six months.
"These boys and myself have not got proper funding from Sport Singapore but we did not think about that.
"We had a goal in mind and we were out there to get the gold medal.
"We achieved it and we hope this will get us more financial support from the sports authorities so that we can groom the junior players."
Kang added: "The players from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are all full-timers.
"We trained for six to eight months, coaching and playing, working and playing, and we showed we can achieve something training like this.
"I hope this will be a motivation for others in sports to know that there are no limits to what you can achieve."