SINGAPORE — Pride was restored for Singapore as the men’s national water polo team reclaimed the gold medal at the 2023 SEA Games in convincing fashion as they won all their five matches in the round-robin competition at the National Olympic Stadium Swimming Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Republic’s 52-year reign as the water-polo king ended in 2019 after dropping points in the tournament. Four years ago, Singapore had to settle for the bronze medal after losing to eventual gold medallist Indonesia and they were also held to a draw by the Philippines in the tournament.
This win is particularly special for some of the players who had been training hard after that fateful loss in 2019, as they had to endure and sit out the previous SEA Games as water-polo was not included as one of the contested sports in Vietnam last year.
“Having had to wait an extra Sea Games cycle for a chance to reclaim the gold, the win this year was very satisfying as it was a validation of our efforts for the past four years,” said 32-year-old Koh Jia Ying who is participating in his sixth SEA Games.
Determined to set it right this time, Singapore called upon several veteran players such as Yip Yang, Paul Tan, Eugene Teo and Loh Zhi Zhi and they played a key role in Cambodia. Led by captain Lee Kai Yang, Singapore started their campaign brightly with a 12-7 win against Thailand, before they showed their supremacy against their Causeway rivals Malaysia, winning 14-1 in the second match.
All eyes were on the third match as the players would remember painfully how the loss against the Indonesians back in 2019 cost them the gold medal. But there was no error this time around as the Singapore water-polo players displayed strength and resilience in the pool to win 12-5. Singapore went on to win their next two matches against the Philippines (10-4) and host (Cambodia 22-14) to rightfully win back the men’s water-polo gold medal which they won for 27 consecutive SEA Games before it ended in 2019.
“It’s definitely a relief to be able to bring back the gold after losing it in 2019. We worked hard and sacrificed so much and ultimately we got the job done,” expressed Darren Lee Jit-An who was part of the SEA Games squad in 2017 and 2019 too.
Following the Singapore men’s national water-polo team’s triumph in Cambodia, the Singapore Swimming Association said that the victory symbolizes redemption and the restoration of their rightful place at the pinnacle of the sport.
“This gold medal is not just for the players; it is a testament to the legacy created by those who came before us, the ones who paved the way and excelled in the sport. It is a symbol of unity and strength, representing the unwavering spirit of the Singaporean people. With your unwavering support, we were able to rise from defeat and stand tall once again, reminding the world of the resilience and indomitable spirit that defines us as a nation,” posted Singapore Swimming Association on their Facebook page.
The Singapore women’s national water polo team finished second in the three-team round robin competition and won the silver medal. They won 10-6 against Indonesia, and lost 4-11 to gold medalist Thailand.
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