SEA Games: Team Singapore athletes raring to go, but shadow of COVID lingers

·4 min read
Team Singapore flag bearer Sheik Farhan (second from left) with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong (left), chef de mission S. Sinnathurai (second from right) and SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin. (PHOTO: Andy Chua/SNOC)
Team Singapore flag bearer Sheik Farhan (second from left) with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong (left), chef de mission S. Sinnathurai (second from right) and SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin. (PHOTO: Andy Chua/SNOC)

SINGAPORE — Singapore has confirmed 427 athletes taking part in 33 sports at next month's SEA Games in Hanoi, with 243 of them making their debuts at the biennial regional sports extravaganza.

Yet, as they enter their final stages of preparations and are raring to go for medals at an event which was postponed from December 2021 due to COVID-19, the ongoing pandemic continues to cast a shadow over their aspirations.

Despite the COVID situations easing in both Singapore and Vietnam, the risk of being infected with the coronavirus remains, even though all participating Singapore athletes and officials are already fully vaccinated.

Chief medical officer Dr Kelvin Chew said during a media conference on Wednesday (27 April) that, should any of the athletes be tested positive for COVID-19 in Hanoi, they would be isolated from their teams while the close contacts would also be tested.

And unless they can return a negative antigen rapid test (ART) and be certified by the host medical staff to be free from COVID, they will not be allowed to participate in their events.

Dr Chew added that Team Singapore's COVID management plan will centre around prevention and early detection. Medical personnel will be assigned to every sport for daily monitoring of the athletes and officials.

Meanwhile, the athletes will operate in a bubble with their movements restricted to their respective hotels and training/competition venues. They will arrive two days before their competition commences, and depart within 24 hours after their competition ends.

"Every athlete and official is given a very comprehensive travel advisory and it spells out various prevention strategies such as emphasis on hand hygiene and advice against sharing of personal items," Dr Chew added.

The Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) has also prepared a "care pack" for the Team Singapore contingent, containing ART kits, surgical masks, hand sanitisers and wipes, and snacks such as biscuits and drink sachets.

Silat's Sheik Farhan named Team Singapore flag bearer

Despite the ongoing concerns over the COVID pandemic, the Hanoi SEA Games marks a step towards returning to the vibrant pre-pandemic regional sports scene, with athletes eager to resume competitions as restrictions are being gradually eased up.

Team Singapore will see diver Max Lee, 14, as the youngest athlete, while billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist is the most senior sportsman at 54 years old.

Three-time silat world champion Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin was also unveiled as the contingent’s flag bearer. The 2017 SEA Games champion said, “Representing Singapore has always been very special to me, and to be able to lead the contingent as flag bearer this time will make this SEA Games a particularly memorable one.

"I can’t wait to compete at a major Games again, and look forward to enjoy the experience in Hanoi.”

With the Games being spread across 12 provinces in northern Vietnam, the Singapore team will be de-centralised in different hotels, and chef de mission S. Sinnathurai will have two assistant chefs de mission to help him with the ground support operation: Asmah Hanim and Damien Ler.

"Resources are dedicated to this decentralised plan with the health and safety of the contingent as the top priority. I hope Singaporeans can lend their support to cheer for Team Singapore as they do their best to represent the nation in Hanoi,” he said.

Both SSI chief Dr Su Chun Wei and Singapore National Olympic Council secretary-general Chris Chan declined to set a gold-medal target for Team Singapore. However, Su believes it is reasonable to expect every Singapore athlete to do their personal-bests at the Games.

"We don't want to focus on the absolute number of medals, every athlete is going there to compete. That is what we emphasise and will look out for. The medal, as a matter of process, will follow," he said during the media conference.

Singapore achieved their largest medal haul at an away Games in 2017, when the athletes clinched 58 golds, 59 silvers and 71 bronzes in Kuala Lumpur. At the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, Singapore's largest away contingent of 659 athletes in 48 sports brought home 53 golds, 46 silvers and 68 bronzes.

Live coverage of the SEA Games will be available on Mediacorp Channel 5 and meWATCH. Fans can support Team Singapore athletes via updates from the SNOC (@sgolympics) and Team Singapore (@teamsingapore) social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

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