Netball team thanking fans - Photo Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters
It was loud, it was tense, it was exciting and in the end it was simply glorious.
Singapore’s netball team won the SEA Games gold medal at the OCBC Arena on Sunday with a thrilling 46-43 victory over Malaysia.
It was a pulsating contest, which Singapore led after each quarter but then faced a fierce fourth quarter comeback attempt from their neighbours.
Cheered on by a passionate young crowd, bedecked in red, Singapore held firm with Charmaine Soh, who scored 38 from 48, claiming the vital goals at the end after Malaysia had levelled the contest at 39-39 midway through the fourth quarter.
Soh had expected an intense atmosphere. Earlier in the day, she had practiced with loud noise through her headphones to get used to the noise she knew was coming in the arena.
“Last time I really had to focus when it was noisy, so I went to google and downloaded movie soundtracks, heavy metal and tried to calm myself down and just shoot,” said Soh.
The Singapore girls have already claimed the title of Asian champions but Chen Huifen, who scored eight goals from 11 shots, said that this SEA Games triumph had a special taste.
“Every victory has its own unique flavour. We have never been in a multi-sport event so for us to add to Singapore’s gold medal tally and to win at home, it feels special,” she added.
The result was the first time Singapore have won in netball at the SEA Games - the only other time the sport was competed for was back in 2001 when Malaysia triumphed over the Republic’s team.
Singapore’s coach Ruth Aitken praised her team for the way they kept their cool in the face of Malaysia’s determined fourth quarter effort.
“I thought there was a real calmness in the group and a belief in one another and they finished off well. It was very heartening from a coach’s point of view,” said the former New Zealand international coach.
Aitken, whose next task is to prepare the team for the World Cup in Australia this August, also had some special praise for the fans.
“The crowd was magnificent, it was just wonderful. We have been blessed all week with some fantastic crowd support and I think today it really did help to get us over the line. Thank you to the eighth player!”