Wushu girls grab S'pore's 1st gold
SINGAPORE'S decades-long streak of landing at least one SEA Games gold in wushu was in danger, going into the final minute of the final event on the final day of competition.
Valerie Wee and Vera Tan had scored 9.63 for their near-spotless routine in the women's duilian (barehand), giving them the lead in the three-team event with one pair to go.
But next up was Myanmar's Aint Mi Mi and Sandy Oo, cheered on by a delirious home crowd at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium.
It was too much to bear for the anxious Singaporean duo, who made small talk on the sidelines rather than watch their opponents' 54-second routine.
Up on the giant scoreboard, three digits were flashed - 9.53.
The hosts fell short, the streak lived on. Cue stunned silence among the locals, and delirium among Team Singapore athletes and officials. A visibly shocked Tan and a relieved Wee were lost in a sea of hugs and high-fives, lost for words after becoming the Republic's first athletes to win gold in Myanmar yesterday. Indonesia came third.
"Unbelievable, amazing, torturous - that just about sums it up," said Curtin University graduate Wee, 24.
While it was the pair's first major event together, they have known each other for a while.
Five years ago, Tan signed up to be Wee's first student at the Sino Wushu Training Centre. Now 15, she still receives pep talks from her mentor, including one on the way to the venue yesterday.
The shy Dunman High student said: "I had a bad sore throat...and nearly lost my voice. Valerie told me not to worry because when it's our time to perform, I'll be able to scream. I didn't believe her at first - but she was right."
Their 56-second burst of passion, power and panache took months of learning, fine-tuning and perfecting.
The pressure was on to deliver after the fancied trio of Emily Sin, Zoe Mui and Fung Hui Xin had to settle for silver in the women's duilian (weapons). They were a heartbreaking 0.01 point behind champions Brunei (9.67), and consigned the Philippines to third place by the same margin.
Lee Tze Yuan's bronze in the men's taijijian boosted Singapore's final wushu medal tally to one gold, two silvers and two bronzes. This surpassed their three-medal target, after taking one gold and two bronzes at the previous Games.
In water polo, the Singapore men also struck gold, beating hosts Myanmar 21-13 for their 25th successive SEA Games crown.
Singapore's medal tally stood at two golds, two silvers and two bronzes last evening.
The SEA Games will officially open today.