Asian Games: The highs and lows

24 Sep 2018

By Rachel Chiu

Five NTU athletes gave their all at the 2018 Asian Games, which spanned over three weeks from 18 Aug to 2 Sep in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang.

They were part of the 246 Team Singapore athletes who competed in 22 sports. Singapore bagged four gold, four silver and 14 bronze medals and ranked 18th, three spots down from its placing in the 2014 Asian Games.

One of the five NTU athletes who competed in the Games is water polo player Chow Jing Lun, 24, a third-year student from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, whose team finished in 6th place behind South Korea.

Another is fencer Kevin Jerrold Chan, 20, a second-year student from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, who competed in the men’s individual foil event. He fell short of four points in the quarter-finals against China.

Squashing adversity

Pang Ka Hoe, 23, played against Indonesia, Thailand and India in the Asian Games.

Singapore sent its first ever squash team to the Asian Games this year. They came in third in the group stage and scored a tie with Japan for fifth place in the men’s team event.

Pang Ka Hoe, a second-year student from Nanyang Business School, was part of the four-men squash team.

“Our target for this competition was to place fifth or sixth overall, so we are very proud to have achieved that,” said Pang.

The 23-year-old, who also competed in last year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, said he was initially nervous as this competition was the “most prestigious event” he had ever represented Singapore in.

“The first match was the most nerve-racking and it only took me till the second match to completely shake it off,” he said.

Pang also had to deal with food poisoning, which struck him just a few hours before his fourth group stage match against Indonesia. Despite this, he pushed through the game and his team eventually won 3-0.

“We still won the match but it was a much harder fight than it should have been because we were physically weaker than usual.”

The team also went on to beat Qatar, which was seeded sixth in the world — one place above Singapore — with a score of 2-1.

“We were so happy to win against Qatar… because they were expected to rank better than us. But we managed to defeat expectations by watching our opponent’s matches carefully and learning from our previous matches against Qatar,” Pang said.

Qatar eventually ranked eighth place.

Pang believes that a resilient mindset is crucial to the game.

He saw the grit and tenacity of the Malaysian players in the finals as they fought against Hong Kong, who were ranked top at the time. Malaysia clinched the gold.

“I believe that if you want anything badly enough, even if you have lesser experience or aren’t as good skills-wise, sheer passion can get you anywhere,” Pang said.

He hopes to be a national champion one day, but acknowledged that he must work harder.

“Unlike in Singapore, squash is a full-time career for many of our foreign opponents. They are hungrier for success and train more intensively,” he said.

“I believe that having the hunger and a single-minded drive to win is something that Singapore can learn from our foreign opponents,” said Pang. “This is important if we want to be number one.”

Kicking through the pain

Nurul Shafiqah Bte Mohd Saiful won Singapore’s first bronze medal for pencak silat.

Final-year Sports Science and Management (SSM) student Nurul Shafiqah Bte Mohd Saiful played through a knee injury in the women's Class B 50 to 55 kilogramme category and won Singapore’s first bronze medal in pencak silat.

Pencak silat is an Indonesian martial art that consists of an individual combat event and performance events competed in teams of two or three. The sport debuted in this year’s Asian Games, with Singapore being one of the 16 nations to compete in the sport.

During her quarter-final match against Iran, Shafiqah tore a ligament on the inner side of her left knee after her opponent tackled her.

“It was demoralising… but I thought about all the sacrifices, hard work and years of training (I had put in) and I really wanted to win,” she said.

“I kept thinking that if I managed to overcome this and pull through, the win would be much sweeter as well,” she added.

She pressed on with the help of painkillers and eventually won 5-0, allowing her to advance to the semi-finals against Vietnam.

However, the match ended 4-1 to Vietnam, and Shafiqah finished joint-third with Laos.

Shafiqah, who has been practising pencak silat for 18 years, attributes her passion for the sport to her brother and sister, who are her teammates in the national team.

She counts her sister as her closest teammate.

“I share most things with her and she’s who I turn to when I need help, because she relates to everything, from matters at home to training,” said Shafiqah.

Looking forward, Shafiqah hopes to focus on rehabilitating her ligament injury so that she can compete in the World Championships held in Singapore in December.

“I’ve been to many World Championships and I’ve never gotten above a bronze so getting a higher ranking than bronze would be my goal,” she said.

Aiming straight

Ang Han Teng competed in the men’s team compound event.

Final-year SSM student Ang Han Teng, one of the nine Singaporean archers who competed in the Games, struggled to keep his nerves under control during the mixed team compound qualification rounds.

The 26-year-old, who competed in last year’s SEA Games, also sustained a shoulder injury a week before the Games. He said: “I missed one of the first six arrows and it affected my morale and performance.”

“I was beyond disappointed because I felt like I could have done so much better,” said Ang, who fell short of qualifying for the mixed team compound event.

However, he qualified for the men’s team compound event. Singapore eventually came in 14th place, finishing above Qatar and Mongolia.

“I’m not going to dwell on my past performance. It’s healthier to learn as much as I can from the Games and to look ahead,” he said.

Looking forward, Ang hopes to qualify for next year’s SEA Games in Manila, Philippines. He also hopes to match up to South Korea one day, who has been an archery powerhouse since the 9th Asian Games in 1982.

“I plan to stay injury-free and work on getting my shoulder strength back,” he said.

He also wants to regain his confidence.

“It’s easy to get distracted or demoralised but I have to remember that for me, I just need to focus on my arrow and the target.”