This report appeared in The Straits Times on 12 April:
Montfort’s reign ends (The Straits Times, 12 April 2011)
Sean wins decider to give sports school the edge in B boys’ final
By Lin Xinyi
THE Singapore Sports School (SSP) ended Montfort Secondary’s nine-year reign as Schools National B boys’ badminton champions yesterday.
It took the SSP just over three hours to earn what they had waited seven years for – their first B boys’ title.
And just as they had done when they defeated Montfort by the same 3-2 margin in the North Zone final, the sports school turned to Sean Lee with the scores in the Pilot Pen Cup tournament tied at 2-2.
Despite slipping to a 0-6 deficit against Montfort’s No. 1 Ricky Alverino Sidharta in a flash, Sean remained composed – even if the 17-year-old was not necessarily feeling that way.
‘Before the match started, I didn’t think that I would be able to beat him,’ said Sean. ‘I became more nervous after I got off to a bad start. But I kept the shuttlecock in play and persevered.’
Sean – described by the sports school’s general manager for badminton Desmond Tan as the team’s most mentally tough shuttler – fought back to triumph 21-14, 17-21, 21-7.
As Sean’s teammates mobbed him in celebration at the Jurong East Sports Hall, Montfort coach Wong Shoon Keat could only shake his head in disappointment. Despite boasting six foreign-born shuttlers – including China-born Chen Xiangteng, who joined from Maris Stella High after the zone finals in February – Montfort could not maintain their dominance.
Wong said the difference between the two teams was in the number of hours they spent in training. The SSP shuttlers train almost twice as much as their rivals, and their superior fitness told in the end, said the 1983 South-east Asia Games gold medallist.
But he vowed to get Montfort back to winning ways: ‘It’ll be even tougher for us to be champions next year, but we’ll fight even harder.’
The sports school’s Terry Hee, who defeated Vicky Rizky Pratama 21-11, 21-12 in the opening singles, believes his school are now the team to beat.
‘This shows that the zone title wasn’t a fluke and that SSP have the best team now,’ said the 16-year-old.
Their other win came in the second singles through Ngiam Bin, who beat Jerome Wong 21-14, 21-16.
That was sandwiched by two Montfort wins in doubles. Loh Kean Hean and Chen defeated Leslie Teng and Tan Zi Jian 15-21, 21-11, 21-15, while Yoshiko Alexander Sianipar and Bimo Adi Prakoso beat Moen Teo and Haafizh Mohd Noor 21-19, 21-15.
In the B girls’ final, the sports school went down 2-3 to Anglican High. The C boys’ and girls’ titles were won by defending champions Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School.
I was delighted when I read the above report and I think you can understand why.
It just goes to show, doesn’t it?
If you have a team of talented local-born athletes, and if they are willing to put in the hours and work hard, then there is really no reason why they cannot beat a team filled with scouted foreign-born players.
For many years, the Singapore Sports School has had to play second fiddle to Montfort Secondary in badminton, and one reason for that is the latter’s active recruitment of foreign students to maintain its status as a powerhouse in schools badminton.
But now the Sports School has broken Montfort’s stranglehold on the national schools crown, despite Montfort’s efforts to further strengthen its team after the North Zone tournament by recruiting a China-born shuttler from Maris Stella (see above report).
And I am glad this win has taken place in a sport whose national governing body has also been shamefully over-reliant on foreign talent over the past decade.
Such is the Singapore Badminton Association’s poor regard for the ability of local shuttlers that they even disbanded one of their development squads – made up of locals – in January this year because they felt that these youngsters would never be as good as the foreign-born shuttlers in the national team (see previous report here).
Sadly, I don’t think this achievement by the Sports School will have any impact on the thinking of the people who run the SBA. Still, the win is a wonderful vindication of the abilities of our local-born shuttlers.
Great job, guys, and a big thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan