Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sprint relay quartet back in the running

Singapore to send record number of athletes to Commonwealth, Asian Games
SINGAPORE - Walking out of the meeting room at the Singapore Sports Council headquarters on Friday, Annabel Pennefather wore a broad grin to match the clenched fist she was holding up.

The Singapore Hockey Federation president was delighted that the Republic's hockey men were given the nod to compete in November's Asian Games, following their appeal to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

Pennefather was not alone in her joy on a night of surprises for Singapore sport - the men's football team also received approval to compete at the Asiad, as did the men's bowling team and the men's 4x100m relay team.

And 22-year-old United Kingdom-based weightlifter Helena Wong (53kg class) will also make history when she flies the Republic's flag at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games, becoming the first woman weightlifter to represent the country at these Games.

"I didn't really believe it when I heard that I was going to the Commonwealth Games, I'm both relieved and happy," Wong told MediaCorp.

The relay quartet of Amirudin Jamal, Gary Yeo, Elfi Mustapa and Lee Cheng Wei, who became the first Singapore team to go under 40-sec with their time of 39.82sec at last December's SEA Games in Laos, qualifying for both the Asian and Commonwealth Games in the process, were broken up subsequently, forcing the new team to re-qualify.

But the new management committee, led by Tang Weng Fei, at the Singapore Athletic Association, had the foursome reinstated, thus automatically qualifying for both the Games.

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, 34-year-old UK Shyam, the national men's 100m record-holder (10.37sec), has been added to the squad of seven sprinters - the others being Calvin Kang and Poh Seng Song. The lot will have to race off at a later date to select the six to travel.

"I'm happy the team's effort has been recognised, and it's good that it's clear that the fastest six runners will compete. Now that it's settled, we can concentrate on training harder," said Yeo.

Shyam though, was surprised at his inclusion. "I love the sport and I still compete for fun, but I don't know if I'm good enough - you need to train seriously to be able to hit fast times.

"I clocked 10.90sec recently and although that was in the rain, I don't think it will be good enough for the big games," he said.

The last time Shyam was in serious training with a view to representing the country was five years ago.

Meanwhile, preparations have already begun for the men's football team: The Asian Games squad are in Myanmar for two friendly matches.

Said team manager Eugene Loo: "The Asian Games will provide our players with a wonderful opportunity to compete against some of the top teams in Asia in a competitive environment."

The Singapore contingents

Commonwealth Games (New Delhi, Oct 3-14): 71 athletes, up from the 63 in Melbourne in 2006

Asian Games (Guangzhou, Nov 12-27): 226 athletes, up from the 132 at the 2006 Doha Games
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