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SEA GAMES 2019: Streak ended, Water Polo heads back to the drawing board

02 December 2019
Philip Goh

The 2019 Games will be remembered as the edition when Singapore’s stranglehold on the men’s water polo gold medal was finally loosened.'


Singapore’s water polo golden streak lasted 27 editions of the SEA Games. Photo Credit: SNOC

For 27 consecutive editions of the Games since 1965, Singapore’s men’s team had never lost a single match. At the New Clark City Aquatic Centre this time, the proud streak came to a shuddering halt.

The single round-robin format meant gold could be secured by winning all the matches. In recent editions, other nations have showed signs that they are catching up with Singapore in this sport, and it finally came to pass when Indonesia broke through with a 7-5 victory last week (28 Nov).


Singapore no longer have the upper hand in water polo (Photo credit: SNOC)

The 6-6 draw with the Philippines last Friday (29 Nov) doused the Republic’s slim chances of gold and even put the silver medal in doubt. And so it proved, as Sunday’s (1 Dec) 14-7 win over Thailand in the final round was not enough to snatch silver from the Philippines, as the hosts beat Malaysia 14-11 to seal second place behind Indonesia.


Dominic Soh, vice president (water polo) at the Singapore Swimming Association, said: “Overall, the standard and quality of Southeast Asian teams have improved. As with previous competitions in recent years, our opponents have been trying very hard to end our record and therefore, we had expected some tough competition.


“Indonesia have been very determined to catch up with us, and we saw how they gave us a tough fight at the previous Games in Kuala Lumpur.


Back to the drawing board for Singapore water polo (Photo credit: SNOC)


“Our team worked hard and prepared well but it was unfortunate that Wayne Chong, our only left-handed player, sustained an injury in the first game and couldn’t play thereafter. This affected our original strategy and impacted the team in this campaign.”


Ong said his team will work on putting Singapore back on the top perch.


“For a start, we have preliminary thoughts on one or two areas to work on. But it is still too early to draw any conclusive solutions. We will be conducting a thorough review and follow-up to strengthen the areas where we may be lacking. We will make a comeback and we are confident we can do so in 2021.”


A historic streak ended, time to start a new streak (Photo credit: SNOC)


Singapore’s women’s water polo team came away with silver having won both their matches against the Philippines and lost both their matches against Thailand.


According to women’s head coach Lee Sai Meng, the team is in rebuilding phase, with 10 SEA Games debutants in this team replacing players who have moved on.

“This team has done well in the relative short time we’ve been together,” he said. “The average age of this group is 20-21 years old, and we hope to be able to keep them together until 2022, at least.

Tags: Major Games

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