Athletes In Lesser Known Sports Show It’s Possible To Raise Their Sports’ Profile
By Jeannette Xavier in Singapore & Kelly Ng in Palembang
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for SSC
Sure, like all the other Team Singapore athletes, they are here to win at the SEA Games in Indonesia. But, unlike those from established sports like table tennis and swimming, they have the added mission of making their sports more visible.
Main Stream Recognition
And they know nothing beats a great win when it comes to raising the profile of their sport. Just ask Sasha Christian. A big name in the wake boarding circle, she came of age – and gained more main stream recognition – after winning gold here. With a score of 60.45, she finished ahead of teammate Kalya Kee (40.23) and Philippines’ Samantha Bermudez (36.46). She may have done even better in other meets but excelling at a major and highly visible event like the SEA Games does wonders when it comes to name recognition – and rewards.
Moment In The Sun
It was the same experience for the synchronised swimmers. Over the years, they have toiled away quietly for their moment in the sun. They enjoyed a bit of that here when Stephanie Chen and Crystal Yap clinched silver in the technical duet event. Scoring 72.750 points, they finished behind Malaysia (76.125) but ahead of hosts Indonesia (70.5). More significantly, they won our first such medal and made a statement for their sport. There was joy for the whole squad as the girls also won a medal – a bronze – in the team technical event. Scoring 70.375 points, they were joint third with Indonesia, behind Malaysia (74.75) and Thailand (70.75). On her silver with Crystal, Stephanie said, “I feel very happy to have brought glory for Singapore.”
Making A Point
At the personal level, boxer Muhamad Ridhwan was of course glad to win a medal at this SEA Games. He clinched bronze after losing 20-9 to Indonesia’s Mathius Mandiangan in the semi-finals of the men’s lightweight (60kg) category. But he was also thinking of making a point for his sport. He had hoped to give Singapore boxing a boost as our last gold came way back in 1985 at the Bangkok SEA Games when Mohd Mukhlis won in the men’s welterweight. Saying that his primary goal was to raise awareness for his sport, Ridhwan said, “Even though I didn’t win (in the semi finals), I am sure you guys can see that I fought my heart out.” Reflecting his gutsy nature, he added, “We are not just here for the experience. We are not just here to get the free bronze. We are here to fight!” Yes, to fight not only against opponents but also a culture which often focuses on the glamour sports at the expense of the lesser known – but no less interesting – ones.