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Water polo players Darren Ng, Yong Zhe Tong and Goh Wen Zhe Photo: SSA news

Serbian stint strengthens Wen Zhe for national team debut

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It is a fact that Serbia’s water polo national team are the Balkan nation’s most successful sporting team, having won more titles than all other Serbian national teams combined. They have in their trophy cabinet – 1 Olympic Gold, 3 World Championships, 3 World Cups, 12 World League titles and 7 European Championships. In 2016, they became the second country in water polo history to hold titles in 5 major championships simultaneously- European Championship, World Championship, World Cup, World League and Olympic Gold.

Water polo players Darren Ng, Yong Zhe Tong and Goh Wen Zhe Photo: SSA(Left to Right) Darren Ng, Yong Zhe Tong and Goh Wen Zhe in Serbia for a training stint from December 2018 to March 2019. Photo: Singapore Swimming Association

It can be said that to improve, one has to learn from the best and that is exactly what 17 year-old Goh Wen Zhe, did for three months from last December to March this year.

As part of their developmental program, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) sent Wen Zhe, together with Yong Zhe Tong and Darren Ng for a three-month training stint with Serbian water polo club, VK Stari Grad, who are known as the “Ajax Amsterdam” of water polo, famed for producing top water polo talents in Serbia, where they trained under world-class coaches and competed against top athletes.

“The training stint helped open my eyes to how far ahead other people of the same age are compared to me. This motivated me to train and learn more to further improve and reach the same level as them,” said the Singapore Sports School student.

He added: “The level of water polo in Serbia is definitely higher as they are professionals and the clubs are more competitive. Over here, the level of our competitions between clubs are comparatively much lower than the Serbians. The many demands and commitments locally also limit the number of competitions we can have. In Serbia, their clubs have a year-long league and they constantly play games every week. Sometimes they even send their clubs overseas to play in competition.”

Wen Zhe will be making his debut for the national team at the upcoming FINA Water Polo Challengers Cup Presented BY TYR from 8 to 13 October, alongside fellow debutants Tang Yee Heng and Jayden See.

“I have been playing for 6 to 7 years now, having converted from swimming after deciding to try a new sport, and it definitely feels exciting to be given a chance to be part of the senior squad. I think that my hard work has paid off with the amount of effort I put into trainings, and the numerous extra morning trainings that I have attended. I’m definitely looking forward to playing with the team and the experience that comes with it. Each competition is different in the sense that you learn different things from the opponents, and I hope to take what I learnt in Serbia and contribute to the team in the FINA Challengers Cup.”

Singapore are in Group A alongside Malaysia, Philippines, Zimbabwe and Ireland. Group B will feature Austria, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei, India and Hong Kong. Each team will play 4 matches in the group stages, and the top team in each group will square off for the gold medal match on the final day.

Tickets for the event are priced at $10 for the group stages, $15 for the finals or $40 for a season pass ticket for the 6 days of competition. Fans can purchase them here.