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S'pore water polo ladies eye SEA Games 2015

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The Team Singapore girls aged 15-17 will be facing off with teams from other Asian countries from 1st to 5th October in the 3rd Asian Water Polo Cup (photo by VOXSPORTS).


A beast in the water the captain of Team Singapore’s Women Water Polo team, Neo Ser Han, immediately flusters when asked to recount an embarrassing incident in the course of being an athlete. 

It turns out that the embarrassing incident she recalls with much mortification is that one time she went on a training trip with the rest of the team, where the punishment for mistakes made was to wear a handmade cap cut out of a polo ball.
“I had to wear it around for the whole day,” she recalls with agony. It is anecdotes like these that serve as a reminder that Ser Han, although actively representing Singapore in the water polo arena, is but a young woman.

The responsibility of leading a group of youths to shine for Singapore rests on her shoulders. Gesturing to the pool at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex where the team just faced off with India’s women water polo team in the first day of the 3rd Asian Youth Water Polo Championship, Ser Han says of the 'rough and quite violent game': “Like just now, when we weren't playing that well, my role is to help to bring up the morale and spirit of the team.”  

Indeed, even with a devastating 12-5 loss against India, the group of girls aged 15 to 17 are still ready to go all out in their preparations for their matches in the coming days. The girls will also be facing off with teams from other Asian countries from 1st to 5th October in the 3rd Asian Water Polo Cup.

Since July 2013, the Team Singapore Women's Water Polo team has been training at least three times a week (photo by VOXSPORTS).

Training Hard

Describing training sessions as “quite strenuous”, the medium-built captain says they have been training hard for this competition since July, when they started off with three sessions per week. 

“As the [3rd Asian Youth Water Polo Championship] drew nearer we started training more frequently, usually four times a week,” she recounts. 

But it all seems worth it, as she speaks for the team when she waxes lyrical about the “very enriching, very fun, and very different” experience of competing in the competition this time around as compared to other “youth competitions”. 

“To represent my country and bring exposure to women's water polo, especially youth women's water polo… it’s great,” says the 17-year-old. This is the first time they are competing on an international scale.

Though resilient in preparations for the competition, the girls would no doubt have felt some stress in terms of managing their time effectively. After all, all of them are first and foremost, students. To this, Ser Han has some very pragmatic views. 

“It’s really about good time management,” reveals the Raffles Institute student. “It’s either studying or training; you’ve got to prioritise your time, especially towards competition dates.”

When asked to give insight into what a typical training session is like for the girls, Ser Han rattles off, “We start with warm ups like some swimming, then sprints, then ball skills… After that we do passing, then shooting, or we just play a match.” 

Quizzed on the most challenging part of training as a competitive water polo player, she sighs, “Definitely swimming. It’s really tiring!” 

Coming from the youth who has been swimming since the age of eight, one can only wonder how the girls manage to fight through each session, only to hit the books right after. But all work and no play would make anyone a dull sports person, so it comes as a relief when Ser Han reveals she rewinds and steps away from the heat of competitive sports by engaging in other sports during her leisure time. 

“I enjoy most ball sports, especially basketball,” she grins. “It’s quite hard to say if I’m good at it, but I just know I enjoy it.”

She also smiles endearingly when describing the dynamics of her team. 

“We’re very different, because we come from different schools... there are very loud personalities and very quiet personalities, but everything just comes together when we train.” 

For a group of young women who spend so much time together in such proximate circumstances, it is good news to hear. As one team, they too have their eyes on the same prize. 

“We are definitely aiming for the 2015 South East Asia (SEA) Games,” she enthuses. Sadly, water polo is not included in the lineup of this year’s SEA Games, to be held in Myanmar. As for now, the team has humbler, but no less noble, ambitions. 

Says Ser Han, the optimism in her eyes evident, “After this competition we just hope to maintain our standards, keep training together, and prepare for next year if there are any other competitions.” 
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