Singapore women's floorballers achieve two feats in as many weeks
After retaining SEA Games gold, they achieve best finish at World C'ship since 2011
Singapore are assured of a best finish at the Women's World Floorball Championship (WFC) in Neuchatel, Switzerland, regardless of the outcome of their 11th-place play-off today.
Even if they lose to Australia, they will finish 12th out of 16 teams, their highest since the tournament switched to a one-division format in 2011.
Since the change four editions ago, they have qualified for the 2015 and 2017 Finals, finishing last on both occasions.
The team began their WFC campaign a week after their SEA Games gold-medal triumph - a run of five matches - and showed no signs of slowing down.
Instead, Louise Khng's side showed tenacity and enterprise as they topped Group D with a perfect record, mustering comeback wins over Thailand (3-1), the United States (7-2) and Australia (5-4).
They were agonisingly close to reaching the quarter-finals - which would have been a first for any Asian team - but fell to a last-gasp 7-6 defeat by Germany on Wednesday.
Undeterred, the world No. 15 side put up another dogged display, but succumbed 9-4 to Denmark in a pulsating encounter at the La Riveraine sports complex yesterday.
Singapore Floorball Association president Kenneth Ho was thrilled with the team's performance at the showpiece tournament and attributed the improvement to changes in training programme.
"The girls have showed great fighting spirit over the two competitions, despite having to play back-to-back tournaments," Ho told The New Paper.
"We are very pleased with their showing and it is evident that we were better prepared for this WFC.
"The girls have been training together for about 1½ years. The time spent together has not only helped with teamwork but also helped forge team spirit.
"We also made changes to their training programme, we included (competition) trips like the Czech Open where they encountered higher-level opponents so as to simulate WFC conditions..."
Added Khng: "The team played really hard and they deserve the ranking they have achieved.
"This is possible because of the hard work, commitment and sacrifices that the players have made in the course of preparing for both tournaments.
"It is also the camaraderie and team cohesiveness that have got them going."
Forward Amanda Yeap, who played in both the 2015 and 2017 WFCs, pointed to a few factors for their improved showing.
"The difference in coaching set-up and the make-up of the team, and the draw helped us to get to this point," she said.
Ho hopes that the feat of finishing among the world's top 12 despite having a smaller fraction of funding compared to other national sports associations, will inspire the younger generation.
Previously, players had to pay their own expenses to play at WFCs, but thanks to sponsorships, they forked out less than half of the amount this time around.
"This shows that, with hard work you can succeed. It will help our Under-19 squad, who perhaps will work even harder to be part of the national team in the future," Ho said.
Yeap, Debbie Poh, Siti Nurhaliza Khairul Anuar and Mindy Lim were on the scoresheet against the 10th-ranked Denmark, who had Cecilia Di Nardo to thank for their victory.
The 27-year-old bagged five goals against Singapore, making her one of the all-time leading scorers with 47 goals.