Netballers eye Nations Cup glory after two near misses
After finishing second twice, S'pore netballers bank on tough training to go one better at Nations Cup
Fresh off winning the gold medal at the South-east Asia Games on home soil in June, Singapore's netballers had to shift their focus to the sport's most prestigious event, the Netball World Cup in Sydney two months later.
After finishing 15th at the World Cup, the team then took a short break before embarking on a training trip to Botswana last month.
They have also been training six times a week for the past month, and have increased their gym sessions to thrice a week - all in preparation for the six-team Mission Foods Nations Cup, which begins at the OCBC Arena today.
It has been a "tough year" for the team, according to national co-vice-captain Nurul Baizura.
But the 25-year-old relishes the challenge of coping with the demands of a long competition season, packed training schedule and other commitments.
"The past month has been tight, but I don't really feel very drained; I actually like the intensity," Baizura told The New Paper on the sidelines of a photo shoot at Gardens by the Bay yesterday.
"We've been in competition mode for a while, and it has been challenging, especially with most of us having to juggle work and school.
"But, at the same time, I think everyone is enjoying it, because it's our passion and we're all in it together."
Singapore, who finished second at the Nations Cup for the past two years, will start their campaign against Papua New Guinea at 3pm today. Northern Ireland will play Botswana at 5pm while Taiwan face a Singapore Invitational side at 7pm.
When asked if the desire to go further this year was stronger, Baizura said: "Of course, we have a goal to work towards, but our focus is more on the process, and taking it one game at a time.
"We've been in the finals the past two years, so hopefully, we can at least enter the final again.
"It's too early to talk about what happens after that."
It is Baizura's sixth appearance at the Nations Cup, and the St Andrew's Autism School teacher is looking forward to it.
"We've had quite a good mix of opponents from different continents, which is good for us as it has pushed us to raise our level of play," she said.
"For example, we've found it to be a challenge playing against some countries because of their athleticism.
"Wah, they really tested my stamina as a centre!"
Although she and her teammates are smaller in build than their foreign counterparts, Baizura believes they can match their opponents in other ways, such as speed and agility.
She added: "I also think our tactical play is good enough, so it's just a matter of crisp and solid execution - nothing fanciful or out of the ordinary, just a short and sharp game.
"We came really close last year, and we know we are capable of winning the tournament.
"Hopefully, we will be able to end it well this time."