SEA Games 2017 More than throwing balls: Stamina key in demanding Petanque
27 August 2017
By Matthew Mohan
Team Singapore’s Goh Wee Teck is used to getting quizzical looks from friends when he tells them he plays competitive petanque.
“Usually they would say ‘Oh, the old people’s sport?’” said Wee Teck. “I’d tell them, ‘If it’s a sport for old people, why don’t you come and give it a try?’”
“Competitive petanque is a lot more than throwing balls. You need stamina — not the kind of stamina that you find in running but mental stamina. You need focus as well because some matches can go on for as long as two or three hours,” added Wee Teck.
The 27-year-old will feature in the mixed doubles event on Sunday along with compatriot Sheryl Sim. This will be his third SEA Games, after the 2009 edition in Laos and 2015 in Singapore.
Singapore has won three medals in petanque, the last coming in 2007.
In petanque, players toss hollow steel balls (boules) as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a jack while standing inside a circle.
In the singles and doubles, each player has three boules, while in the triples each player uses only two. For each boule that is closer than the opposing team's closest boule, the winning team scores one point.
It’s a simple sport, but it isn't as easy as it looks, said Wee Teck.
“It’s simple to pick up the sport and play but to master it is not easy, because it needs a mixture of both the mental and physical,” he added.
Wee Teck was introduced to the sport at the age of 12, by his primary school teacher Vicki Heo.
“When you're young, you’re always curious about a lot of things,” said Wee Teck. “So, I would ask her what this sport is about, then she’d just bring me down to play at Toa Payoh. I found it interesting, it was like a bigger version of marbles.”
Wee Teck went on to be a teammate of Vicki’s at the 2015 Games.
Once a sport for royals, petanque originated from France. As such, countries previously under the French colony, such as Laos and Cambodia, are the traditional powerhouses in Southeast Asia.
"They have a very large base and pool of players,” said Wee Teck. “They are also professionals. They have more muscle memory, more training and more experience as well.
“I saw some of them competing when I was young, and now when it is my turn to compete, I still see them!”
But, Wee Teck, who is an operations supervisor, isn't ruling out Singapore’s chances just yet.
“A medal is always possible,” said Wee Teck. “I think we have an edge in tactical intelligence which some other teams might not. The ball is round.”