SEA Games: Singapore's Wushu exponents aiming for three golds

To train full time, Valerie Wee (right) put her career plans on hold while Yong Yi Xiang postponed the start of his law-degree studies at NUS. — TODAY pic
To train full time, Valerie Wee (right) put her career plans on hold while Yong Yi Xiang postponed the start of his law-degree studies at NUS. — TODAY pic

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Singapore, June 1 — The Republic’s long-standing streak of winning at least one wushu gold medal at the Southeast-Asian Games almost came to an end in Myanmar two years ago.

That record was preserved by the skin of its teeth by Valerie Wee and Vera Tan, as the duo’s masterful routine in the women’s duilian (barehand) event saw them scoring 9.63 points, which eventually proved enough for the gold as they pipped their closest rivals — Myanmar’s Aint Mi Mi and Sandy Oo — to the top prize by just 0.10 point.

With the 2015 Games to be held on home soil, the Singapore Wushu Federation (SWF) are determined to better their medal tally of one gold, two silver and two bronze from the Myanmar Games, and have set themselves a three-gold-medal target.

To achieve their goal, the federation decided to send two of their top athletes in Wee and former world junior champion Yong Yi Xiang for full-time training stints in China last year. Wee will be competing in two events (women’s taijiquan and taijijian), while Yong has been entered in three (men’s changquan, broadsword and cudgel).

The decision to train full-time came at a cost for both Wee and Yong. Wee had to put her career plans on hold while Yong had to postpone the start of his law degree studies at the National University of Singapore till later this year.

But it is a sacrifice that Yong believes will bear fruit in the long-run. The 21-year-old, who won a bronze medal in the men’s duilian in Myanmar, is confident of making an impact this year after what he calls an “otherworldly experience” at the Shandong Province Wushu Academy, a world-renowned venue that also hosts the Chinese national team.

“The training stint in China was really fruitful,” said Yong. “I gained an in-depth understanding into the culture of wushu by training in the country where the sport originated.

“This allowed me to better decipher the meanings of every move and I was able to improve the choreography of my own routines. Being able to train daily with the top wushu exponents in the world really spurred me on to continually improve myself in order to reach greater heights.”

A total of 113 wushu exponents from 10 countries are set to do battle at the Singapore Expo Hall 2 from June 6 to 8. Powerhouses Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar, who topped the medal standings at the previous edition of the Games with 15 gold medals, are once again expected to dominate the competition.

It is one of the reasons Yong, while hoping to win a medal in all three of his events, is keen to temper the public’s expectations at the Games. “I have improved since the last Games, but I have not got to the point where I can be considered world-class. However, I am confident that I have made tremendous progress and I want to showcase all that I’ve learnt over the past year.”

Having won gold at the previous edition of the Games, Wee acknowledges that there will be pressure on her to repeat the feat this year. With the Games held in Singapore for the first time in 22 years, the 25-year-old is hoping that the support of the home crowd and her team-mates will be able to give her a boost during her routines.

“The support is very important, especially from my team-mates,” she said. “Hearing words of encouragement before my event gives me the confidence to do even better for my routines. I’m not going to think about medals for now. But I am aiming to produce a perfect performance – one that I’ll enjoy every minute of. If I can do a very good routine and my coach tells me ‘well done’, then that’s good enough for me.”

When: June 6 - 8

Where: Singapore Expo Hall 2

How many medals: 20

    Optional Changquan (Men’s and Women’s)
    Duel Event – Weapons (Men’s and Women’s)
    Duel Event – Barehand (Men’s and Women’s)
    Optional Nanquan + Nandao (Women’s)
    Optional Nanquan + Nangun (Men’s)
    Optional Taijiquan (Men’s and Women’s)
    Compulsory Taijiquan (Men’s and Women’s)
    Optional Taijijian (Men’s and Women’s)
    Optional Broadsword (Men’s)
    Optional Straight Sword (Women’s)
    Optional Spear (Women’s)
    Optional Cudgel (Men’s)
    Sanda – 60kg (Men’s)
    Sanda – 65kg (Men’s)

How much to watch: S$5 (RM13.50). — TODAY

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