Canoeists better SEA Games record haul but ...
It could have been an even better harvest for Singapore's canoeists if not for several near-misses
Sarah Chen could hardly hold back her tears.
It was not because the Singapore kayaker had just won her second SEA Games gold medal in two days, but the reaction to the bitter disappointment of having let one slip away.
"The K4 was what we all wanted," said a choking up Chen at the end of the canoeing programme at the Marina Channel yesterday.
"We gave it our all."
The crew of Chen, Geraldine Lee, Soh Sze Ying and Annabelle Ng finished second in the women's K4 200m race, losing to their Thai rivals by the finest of margins, a mere 0.052 seconds.
That was theme of the day as the hosts finished second in five races on the last day of action at the Marina Channel.
But it was not all gloom.
There were also two golds, which came early in the day courtesy of Chen and Mervyn Toh in the women's and men's K1 200m races.
That brought the total haul for Singapore's canoeists to seven golds and five silvers, obliterating their previous record of two golds, five silvers and three bronzes from the 2011 Games in Indonesia.
But there was a sense that it could have been so much more.
It wasn't just the women's K4 200m team that missed out by a whisker.
Incredibly, the men's C2 200m team of Chong Koi Kiat and Tan Chin Chuen were also pipped to the line by 0.052sec, as Myanmar's Maung Maung and Htike Win grabbed gold.
Meanwhile, in the men's K2, Toh and Syaheenul Aiman Nasiman lost out to the Indonesian pair of Gandie Gandie and Mugi Harjito by 0.330sec.
"I really thought we could win this race," said Aiman, 24.
But the pair weren't helped by a false start.
Toh explained: "The first time we started, I really felt that we had a very good chance to win.
"Unfortunately, I think we weren't well prepared enough for the possibility of a false start, so we ended up wasting a lot of energy by going much further than we should have."
The 23-year-old did, however, end the day with a gold in the K1 200m race, finishing 1.232sec ahead of Thailand's Aditep Srichart in 37.860sec.
In the women's race, Chen matched her older sister Stephenie's feat in the K1 500m race on Monday by beating defending champion Erni Sokoy of Indonesia in 44.869sec.
Said the older Chen: "I am extremely proud of my sister. She did very well today."
While they are likely to rue their missed chances, Singapore's canoeists can transfer their impressive result at the regional level to the bigger stage, said coach Balazs Babella.
"I am happy with what we achieved, but I know there is still room for improvement."
The Hungarian indicated that the next target is the Asian Games in 2018 and, if everything goes well, even the Olympics in 2020.
The 36-year-old said: "I hope now we can aim for even bigger things than the SEA Games; not I hope, I am 100 per cent sure.
"We will do everything to achieve something."
Singapore's two other silvers yesterday came in the men's K4 200m and the women's K2 200m, with both teams losing to their Thai rivals.
"The whole purpose of the SEA Games is to inspire a legacy of sports in Singapore. So I hope what we have achieved here, in sports like canoeing and wushu, will inspire younger Singaporeans to participate in the sports."
- Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong