Team Singapore Waterpolo Team ready to make their mark at the Incheon 2014 Asian Games.
(L to R: Eugene Teo (Captain), Koh Jian Ying, Marcus Goh, Loh Zhi Zhi, Lim Yaoxiang, Yip Yang, Chiam Kun Yang, Nigel Tay, Sean Ang, Lee Kai Yang, Ang An Jun, Lin Diyang) (Photo by Sport Singapore)
In any sport, it is rare for a country to maintain a stranglehold on silverware, but Team Singapore men’s water polo team have done just that after earning their 25th consecutive Gold medal at the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar.
While the current players are delighted to maintain supremacy within the Southeast Asia region, the one that matters to them now will be the upcoming Asian Games 2014 (Asiad) held in Incheon, Korea.
The target for this Games is to make progress on the sixth-place finish Singapore attained in the 2010 Asian Games, after they drew Kuwait in the preliminary rounds and were edged out 5-4 in the final 5th-6th placing game.
This is especially so for long-time players such as co-vice-captain Paul Tan, who is 30-years-old and might be playing in his last Games. The opportunity will mean much to him, after he learnt how painful it was to miss out on a competition, when he did not make the cut for the 2009 SEA Games squad.
Up against Asian opponents, this is one message the teacher-by-day wants to pass to his younger teammates.
“It is not going to be easy. We are confident but we can’t take anything for granted. I mean, we can’t underestimate any of the teams,” Paul warned.
“Speaking on behalf of the team, we definitely want to do well and better than the last time in 2010. In the next five to ten years, we want to make inroads into Asia.”
Alongside Tan, the team will have veteran Lim Yao Xiang, 32, lining up with 24-year-old Loh Zhi Zhi as co-vice-captains to assist 27-year-old captain Eugene Teo in leading the team.
It may be strange to some that despite Yao Xiang and Paul’s presence, the relatively younger Eugene is tasked with leading the team.
Vice-captain Loh Zhi Zhi at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar. (Photo by Sport Singapore)
However, the skipper has received the backing of his vice-captains, with Zhi Zhi dismissing any talks of seniority within the mix.
‘I don’t think we really go by who is senior,” Zhi Zhi explained.
“Everyone has to contribute; it is quite difficult to observe everything that is going on in the game. Regardless whether it is a junior or senior playing in that role, we have to listen.
“In a team sport, everyone has to be on the same page, it doesn’t matter where the instruction comes from, the most important thing is that we play as a team.”
Including some of the aforementioned leaders, only six out of the 13-men squad have played in the previous Asian Games. Out of the seven remaining, two will be making their debut at a major competition.
As such, the experienced players acknowledged that this will be a relatively young team going to compete at the Asian level.
However, they stressed that this does not undermine the team in any way.
“I think younger players bring something different. Definitely the older guys have more experience to contribute, but the younger guys contribute in terms of energy,” Zhi Zhi said of the team.
The confidence level among the team is also high due to the level of performance they have been putting out. In addition to the Gold medal at the 2013 SEA Games, the squad also won Silver at the 3rd Asian Water polo Cup 2013.
En-route to the Silver, Singapore avenged the defeat to Kuwait in the previous Games by beating them 8-4. The Gold medal was eventually attained by Iran, the only team Singapore failed to beat in the whole tournament.
“I think it’s a good mixture of young and old. Since most of the squad was involved in the SEA Games last year, I believe we are all well prepared this year.
“We have been training very hard, our fitness levels have definitely gone up since last year’s SEA Games. Basically our skill levels have gone up, that comes from constant training and reinforcement,” Paul added.
Let’s cheer on our Water Polo Men’s as they take on Hong Kong on 25 September in their first preliminary round. Extend your support to our Water Polo Women’s team when they go head-to-head with Uzbekistan on 20 September.
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