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Singapore women’s water polo team set for maiden appearance at the World Aquatics Championships

Nervous but also a source of pride is how national women’s water polo player Koh Ting Ting describes the team’s biggest test ahead of them: a maiden appearance at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships.

Singapore, who finished fourth behind champions China, Japan and Kazakhstan at the recent Hangzhou Asian Games, will head to the Feb 2-18 event in Doha as a replacement for the Japanese.

Japan withdrew reportedly due to budget constraints.

The Republic’s debut will be a tough assignment. They are in Group C with former world champions Hungary, New Zealand and Australia, fourth at the 2023 edition.

Koh, 31, said on Tuesday: “We were very excited when we found out that we would be heading to the world championships. The girls were also filled with pride and felt all the hard work and dedication they had put in for their training was worthwhile.”

While she knows that the level of competition is compared to the Asiad, she believes that it has only served as motivation for her and her teammates – they are part-time athletes as most have to juggle work or studies – to train harder.

She said: “We are nervous because we know that we will be competing against very strong teams. However, we are determined to push even harder in our preparations and make the most out of this great opportunity.”

Singapore Aquatics vice-president (water polo) Dominic Soh insisted that the women’s team, who have won a gold and three silvers at the SEA Games, are not going to the Middle East just to make up the numbers.

He hopes that they can build on their recent showing at the Asian Games. In China, they produced some creditable results, including beating Thailand, SEA Games champions in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2023, as well as Uzbekistan.

Their fourth-placed finish was Singapore’s best at the quadrennial Asiad.

Soh said: “We are very proud of this achievement, and it has significantly boosted the girls’ confidence. But we know the World Championships will be an even bigger challenge, so we are taking this momentum from the Asian Games to keep pushing ourselves.

“The girls are training very hard and they are all about that continuous improvement mindset. Our coaches are also analysing the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents at the World Championships to fine-tune our game strategies.”

Singapore captain Abielle Yeo, 25, also sees this as a unique chance to observe how elite sides operate.

She said: “Participating on this global stage allows our team to gain invaluable experience by learning from some of the best teams in the world.

“We also hope that our participation at the World Championships can serve as an inspiration to future generations of water polo players in Singapore, encouraging more young athletes to pursue the sport.”