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Singapore to host Asian Water Polo Championships in March, featuring the continent’s top teams

Sports fans in Singapore will be able to catch a preview of the Asian Games water polo competition as the Republic hosts the Asian Water Polo Championships for the first time from March 22-27.

The continent’s giants such as China and Kazakhstan will be taking part in the meet, which is sanctioned by the Asia Swimming Federation and features both men’s and women’s competitions at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, said the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) in a press statement on Wednesday.

SSA vice-president (water polo) Dominic Soh said: “Singapore is honoured to be given the opportunity to host an event of such stature.... We are on the lookout for competitions that will not only test our athletes against top opposition, but also allow us to gain more experience in hosting big events.”

Besides helping the Singapore teams prepare for the May 5-17 SEA Games in Cambodia, this meet will also serve as a qualifier for the May 1-7 World Cup, Division 2 in Berlin.

The men’s competition, which comprises eight teams, starts with a round-robin stage before proceeding to the play-offs, with the top four sides earning their spots in Berlin. Singapore are in Group A with Uzbekistan, China and Thailand, while Group B comprises Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Iran and the Philippines.

The women’s event will feature only four teams – Singapore, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Uzbekistan – and will be played in a double round-robin format, with all four countries already sealing their spots at the World Cup.

In the 2022 edition of the Asian championships in Thailand, the Singapore men’s team finished sixth out of 10 countries, one spot above regional rivals Thailand, while the women’s team placed fifth out of six.

National men’s coach Kan Aoyagi said the upcoming event will be a good test of “how far we’ve come and how much we have to improve if we want to be one of the top water polo countries in Asia”.

“We have set a goal of winning a medal at the 2030 Asian Games and events like this on home soil will be a good opportunity for our teams to show the home crowd what they are capable of,” he said.

The Japanese had previously said that they hoping to better their sixth-place showing at the 2018 Asian Games when they do battle at the Hangzhou Asiad in September.

They are also targeting the SEA Games gold in Cambodia, after Singapore’s 27-gold winning streak in the biennial Games ended in 2019, when they won only a bronze medal.

Water polo was not contested at the Hanoi Games in 2022. As an alternative, Singapore hosted the Inter Nations Cup, a six-team tournament at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last May. The Republic fielded two sides, with its A team emerging champions after beating Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore B. 

Asia Swimming Federation secretary-general Taha Al Kishry said that they are excited to bring the continental meet to Singapore for the first time.

He added: “With the Asian Games set to take place later this year, 2023 will be an exciting year for water polo... We have a stellar line-up of teams and with slots at the World Cup up for grabs, competition will be very keen in Singapore.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased at