NEW CLARK CITY, Philippines: No permanent home turf. No proper lighting. No excuses.
The Singapore men’s softball team trained in less than ideal conditions prior to the 2019 SEA Games but emerged with the most ideal outcome on Sunday (Dec 8) when they beat Philippines 6-1 to clinch gold.
This is Singapore’s first softball gold in the history of the Games.
In doing so, the team broke the dominance of the Philippines whose men’s team had won the gold medal at the SEA Games all but once.
“It’s definitely not easy and I think we’ve managed to topple a giant this year,” said captain Ivan Ng. “It’s no easy feat for any of us but I think the team stuck through together and made sure we battled through. We are just so happy.”
The team has had to surmount stacked odds to achieve the giant-killing feat.
After having to vacate their previous homeground at Kallang, they have been training at the Farrer Park fields since last year.
“It was very tough, it was a ground that was not ideal at all, because there’s a lot potholes and stuff. But at least we have a ground to train (at),” said head coach Diamond So.
This meant having to do things like weeding and flattening the ground to get it ready for practices, added Ng.
“It’s not the easiest of places because of the lighting ... but also because of the terrain, the ground and we had a couple of minor injuries here and there,” he added.
“Our manager and our NSA (National Sport Association) were resourceful enough to get lighting, and the players did our part in weeding the ground and flattening the ground. Pretty much a lot of self-help.”
But this did not deter the team in pursuit of their gold, said Ng.
“We worked with our resources, the lighting and all. (We) brought in generators, pushed them in from one end of the field of another - whatever we could make use of,” said Ng.
“We try not to make any excuses for ourselves, we just make the best of it and train hard.”
Even before the Games, the team were seeing their efforts bear fruit.
At the Men’s Softball World Championship earlier this year, the team beat regional powerhouses Philippines.
“We first set sights on our gold medal right from our world championships earlier in June,” explained Ng. “When we beat them 4-3, we kind of knew there was a chance and to do so in their homeground, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we were up for the fight.”
But first, they had to overcome an 8-0 loss in the round-robin to the Philippines.
“We knew that we didn’t get a good start in that game for sure,” said Ng.
“As much as the victory went to them, I’m quite sure that they were well aware that they didn’t get any good hits off us. We weren’t at our top form as well ... When we did our own reviews, we were much more ready for the playoff games.”
The team rebounded back to beat the Philippines in the semi-finals 4-3 to secure an automatic spot to the finals.
“When we won the playoff match ... we kind of knew we had a chance to go all the way out and make sure that we bring the gold back to Singapore and make history,” added Ng. “So the boys were all ready for battle right from the start.”
They called their victory “a dream come true”.
“I would say this is a dream come true, not only a dream that we had, the main thing is everyone who plays softball had this dream,” he said.
“(It was) not only my coaches - all the players, everyone that plays softball in Singapore wanted this win.”
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