Netball: Different aims, same gold
At 29, netballer Yasmin Ho should already be a senior in the national team, and closing in on a century of caps, like her peers Micky Lin and Chen Huifen.
Instead, the goal shooter has just one cap to her name, from way back in 2008 in a Nations Cup match here against Samoa.
But, rather than to focus on what could have been, Ho is focusing on the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
“Some people think that (the national team call-up) has come a little too late,” said Ho.
“But I choose to look at it differently. It’s better late than never.
“The timing is pretty much spot-on. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the SEA Games, and to be needed by the team and the fans for such a momentous occasion like the SEA Games, playing in front of a home crowd after so many years; it doesn’t come any better.”
She left the sport in 2010 to focus on getting a pharmacist’s license.
An anterior cruciate ligament injury then also kept her out of sports for about a year.
She returned to netball in 2011, turning out for the Sneakers Stingrays in the Netball Super League (NSL).
The league turned out to be the platform for her comeback.
She impressed national coach Ruth Aitken during the season earlier this year to earn a spot in the national training squad as one of four sparring partners.
She shone in the team, and forced her way into the squad that left for a Fiji training trip last month.
Eventually, she made the cut for the 12-strong SEA Games squad.
Ho said: “It’s a big chance for myself, especially, after the years I’ve spent away from the team. It’s good to be back.”
She is hoping her comeback tale will have a fairy-tale ending on June 7, when the netball final will take place at the OCBC Arena.
Although the Singapore Sports Hub facility opened its doors only last June, it has already witnessed history.
Last September, the team retained their Asian Netball Championships crown on home ground.
Now goal shooter Charmaine Soh and Co. will seek to settle an old score.
The only other time netball was featured at the Games, in 2001, Singapore lost 42-35 to Malaysia in the final.
Singapore are hot favourites to lift the gold this time around, and Soh relishes a chance to beat their arch rivals on the way to the title.
Soh, 24, said: “Regardless of what sport it is, an encounter between Singapore and Malaysia is always intense.
“I remember I was still in school then, and it’s never nice to be on the losing side of such a passionate rivalry. It happened once, but we don’t want it to happen again.
“That’s why it means so much to us, and especially myself. It’s Singapore’s time now.”
Team captain Lin, 29, hopes that fans — both old and new — will pack the OCBC Arena to the rafters and raise its roof, as the team embark on its mission for honour and glory.
Lin said: “The SEA Games is going to play a huge role in terms of the interest level of the sport among locals.
“We are Asian champions, and the SEA Games might just be a minor tournament, but the event brings Singaporeans together. There’s a sense of belonging that is going to be all over the country come June.
“That’s why I hope the fans will be there, because netball has been on an upward trajectory in the last three or four years, and they can see all their effort and support play out at the Games.
“This is what athletes work for. There is nothing greater than having people willing you on — whether it’s your friends, family, or ordinary fans.”