Playing their cards right: Singapore’s contract bridge team aim to build on Asian Games success

Playing their cards right: Singapore’s contract bridge team aim to build on Asian Games success

Contract Bridge team returns to Singapore (1)
Supporters greet Team Singapore’s contract bridge team at Changi Airport. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

SINGAPORE: One of the first things eight-year-old Fong Lay Yee did when she met her father Fong Kien Hoong, after he touched down at Changi Airport on Sunday (Sep 2), was to ask him to show his Asian Games gold medal.

“She’s still in disbelief,” said Lay Yee’s mother Tan Sock Ngin. 

“I told her that her father won a gold medal. Then she was like, ‘how come daddy is not on television?’ I was stunned and didn’t know how to answer her.”

Contract Bridge team returns to Singapore (1)
Lay Yee (third from left) awaits the arrival of her father and contract bridge team member, Fong Kien Hoong, alongside her younger sister and mother Tan Sock Ngin. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

They were among close to 20 supporters who were at the airport to welcome back members of Singapore’s contract bridge team upon their return from the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

Also returning were Singapore’s table tennis, men’s water polo and women’s rugby teams.

The contract bridge men's team - comprising Fong, Poon Hua, Loo Choon Chou, Zhang Yukun, Desmond Oh and Kelvin Ong - beat Hong Kong 107-52 in the final.

This year marks the first time contract bridge has been included in the Asian Games. It was contested at the 2011 SEA Games, also in Indonesia, where Singapore finished with one gold medal, five silvers and three bronzes.

Contract Bridge team returns to Singapore
Members of Team Singapore’s contract bridge team returned home on Sunday (Sep 2). (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

The team are feeling invigorated after their success in Indonesia.

“We’re very happy that there has been heightened awareness about bridge among the Singapore community,” said Poon, a professional contract bridge player. “We are hoping more young players will come forward and pick up the game.”

READ: Commentary: A bridge too far – what makes an activity worthy of inclusion into an international sporting tournament?

There are plans in the works to start a bridge school in Singapore by the end of the year, revealed Poon.

“We are hoping more will enjoy this game as much as we do and benefit from it,” he added. “Starting at a younger age would give players a stronger foundation and give players higher standards as they progress.”

Improving the standards of women contract bridge players will also be an area of particular focus for the Singapore Contract Bridge Association, added team captain Chua Gang.

“We are going to give more support to female players and give them more exposure to international games and training,” he added.

READ: Contract bridge a game of skill, not luck: Singapore's Asian Games gold medallists tell detractors 

Other members of the squad also hope that greater recognition will be afforded to contract bridge.

“We hope for more financial support. Every time when we have to go overseas for any tournaments, it’s all self-funded and those who have not started working - it’s a bit difficult,” said Tan, who participated in the super mixed team event. 

“I hope there will be more recognition for us as a mind sport.”

READ: Singapore's contract bridge men's team to receive S$320,000 award for historic Asian Games gold

With a shiny gold medal hanging around Lay Yee’s neck, Fong reflected on his team’s win.

“Winning a gold medal is something that I can show my kids - if you put your heart and effort into it, you can achieve things you aim for,” he said. 

“Hopefully I can be some sort of role model to them, to remind them to try their best in whatever they do.”

Source: CNA/na(ra)