Here’s a look back at some of the memorable moments at this year’s Games.
Every tournament, series or championship has its landmark events. The struggle that athletes put themselves through for honours has led to numerous records and upsets, and these instances have often become the very reason why meets like the 28th SEA Games have found a place in the hearts of fans.
1. Shanti’s sprint to gold
Singapore's Veronica Shanti Pereira (centre) celebrates winning gold. Photo credit: SINGSOC
One of the crowning glories of host Singapore’s time on the track this year was Veronica Shanti Pereira’s breakthrough win in the women’s 200m event. Despite missing the Games record by just 0.3 seconds, Shanti managed to break her own and Singapore’s national record with a timing of 23.60 seconds. She told reporters after the race that her game plan was to pace herself around the bend before speeding up during the last 100m. Her straight sprint allowed Shanti to keep ahead of Filipina favourite and 100m champion Kayla Richardson, who came in a close second.
Shanti’s win marked Singapore’s first medal in a sprint event since 1973, and she added on to her haul by also clinching a bronze in the women’s 100m event. Her unexpected victory has planted seeds of hope for a bright future in Singapore athletics, which was once perceived as one of the host’s weaker sports.
2. Young Thais end Singapore monopoly
Young upstarts Sawettabut Suthasini and Tanviriyavechakul Padasak shocked regional audiences when they defeated Singapore’s seeded pair Zhou Yihan and Li Hu in the table tennis mixed doubles semi-finals, effectively ending widely held hopes of an all-Singapore final.
The comparatively inexperienced Thai pair kept their cool and focus in the game, pulling off a turnaround after losing the first two sets when the weaker-hearted would have lost confidence. They maintained composure through a tough seven-set match while their opponents became visibly frustrated under the pressure. The Thai duo secured victory by a narrow 4-3 margin, much to the disappointment of Singaporean supporters.
This win placed the spotlight firmly on 20-year-olds Suthasini and Padasak, who had never participated in the SEA Games prior to this year’s edition. The following day, Suthasini shocked the home crowd further when she defeated Singapore favourite Feng Tianwei and eventually saw off Malaysian Ng Sock Khim to become the champion of the women’s singles competition.
3. Vietnamese brilliance on the parallel bars
For 19-year-old Phuong Thanh Dinh, a SEA Games debutant, finishing with a medal was all he wanted. But he will leave Singapore with much more than that, after clinching the coveted gold medal for the parallel bars event.
While the strain of the routine clearly showed in other athletes’ attempts, Dinh maintained an easy swing and clean straight lines throughout his programme, pulling it off almost effortlessly. Amidst cheers from his teammates, the youngest member of the team completed it with a flawless dismount, setting him apart from his competitors. His score of 15.853 put him far ahead of his more experienced compatriot and London Olympian Pham Phuoc Hung, who came in second with a score of 14.653.
Dinh went on to secure another two surprise gold medals in the individual men’s all-around and horizontal bar. Given his stellar performances, all of his medals were well deserved.
4. Indonesian football team hits their stride
The Indonesian football team. Photo credit: Facebook
The Indonesian football squad (above) were shouldering their country’s hopes of a football revival as they kicked off their SEA Games campaign this year. The tension was palpable after they lost their first match to Myanmar 4-2.
But the team managed to turn things around in their next game with Cambodia, where they emerged 6-1 victors. One of the moments of magic in that fixture took place in the 37th minute, when Paulo Sitangang and Ahmad Noviandani displayed perfect understanding to score the second goal of the game, creating a comfortable cushion between themselves and the opposition. Both players had billed the outside right as a clear channel, and Sitaggang’s defence splitting pass was anticipated by Dani, himself unanticipated by the Cambodian defence. The through pass proved a perfect assist to Dani’s eventual acute shot, and the goal was inevitable.
Their victory was further secured when Muchlis Hadi Syaifulloh, Wawan Pebriyanto and Evan Dimas tucked in four more goals in the second half of the game. As assistant manager Ferry Yuniarto Kono revealed, “[Before] the second match, we gave the players confidence that we can achieve the highest result.” This transformation kick-started a series of wins that propelled Indonesia to the semi-finals of the SEA Games football competition.
5. Malaysia’s mixed doubles racquet switch
(Watch the racket exchange at time code 13.18 in the video)
A display that certainly doesn’t occur at your run-of-the-mill tournament, Malaysian badminton mixed doubles representatives Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying swiftly swapped rackets after one of the wires on Chan’s rackets snapped in the midst of a fierce rally, all without missing a beat.
In the middle of a tight rally with their Singaporean opponents Vanessa Neo and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta, Chan hit a high lob to Singapore’s Vanessa Neo, making her opponent wait for the shuttlecock to descend before she could smash. In the interim, Goh took advantage of this lull to hand her racket to Chan, who received it just in time to counter Neo’s smash. The rally ended spectacularly when Goh—using the racket with broken strings, no less—aimed the shuttle in the far corner and her hit proved too strong for opponent Chrisnanta’s backhand, winning Goh and Chan the point.
This seamless teamwork and ability to adapt quickly eventually propelled the Malaysian pair through to the finals to clinch the silver medal, after a nail-biting set ending 25-23 in favour of Indonesia.