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A good showing for Team Singapore at Asian Water Polo Championship – Singapore News

“Overall, we had many good games… we did hit our target for this competition,” said the men’s team captain Loh Zhi Zhi.

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The Singapore national water polo men’s and women’s team ended the Asian Water Polo Championship in a respectable sixth and fifth place respectively; with the men’s team finishing the tournament as the top Southeast Asian team, and the women’s team claiming a better final standing in fifth place.

The men’s team opened their Group B matches in Samut Prakan, Thailand, with a 17-8 and 11-9 win over Kuwait and Hong Kong respectively, before they went down to stronger opponents, 22-6 to the championships’ eventual winner 22-6 and 25-6 to 25-6 to China. Singapore finished third in their group.

In the quarter-final match, coach Ken Aoyagi’s team lost 18-6 to Kazakhstan. In the classification play-off, Singapore saw off the challenge from Thailand 12-9 and lost 14-7 to South Korea in the fifth-place play-off match. 

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“Overall, we had many good games, and though we didn’t get fifth spot, we did hit our target for this competition,” said the men’s team captain Loh Zhi Zhi.

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Loh added that the experience of playing against Asia’s strongest teams was good for the team, which has an average age of 23 and featured three teenagers. Coach Aoyagi explains that he wanted to give the younger players a chance to gain competitive experience as they are part of his long-term plan to excel in the next eight years.

Singapore will be hoping to regain their crown in the SEA Games when their 52-year reign as the regional kingpins ended at the 2019 SEA Games as they had to settle for a bronze medal, and the experience gained by going up against world powers like Japan and Kazakhstan – who finished 10th and 11th at last year’s Olympic Games – will put the team in good stead.

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“We have stronger and more experienced players, but for this tournament, we wanted to allow the young ones gain confidence for next year’s SEA Games. We must get the gold medal this time,” added Aoyagi who is targeting gold at the SEA Games and a fifth-place finish at the Asian Games.

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Although the women’s team beat South Korea 18-4 to finish fifth, they had to settle for second-best in the race for top Asean honours. Host Thailand beat Singapore 13-9 in an earlier group match, and the win ensured they finished the six-team tournament in fourth place, one ahead of Singapore.

“We were slightly disappointed to lose to our rivals, Thailand. Knowing that there will be a homeground advantage, we felt like we did not lose to them in physique or ability, but because we let the nerves get to us,” said the women’s team captain Koh Ting Ting whose team has an average age of 23.

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Singapore Swimming Association vice-president (water polo) Dominic Soh said both teams, despite their relative inexperience, deserve credit for putting up good performances against tough opponents,  “We deliberately brought along many young players with an eye on longer-term development and potentially winning a medal at the Asian Games in the near future.”

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