Photo By Getty Images for Singapore Sports Council
By Kelly Ng in Palembang
Team Singapore’s synchronised swimmers, led by Stephanie Chen and Crystal Yap, have shone at this SEA Games with two silvers and a bronze so far. Their success here means a lot to them as their sport does not enjoy much support and they have depended mainly on personal contacts to keep them going.
Tears Of Joy
Speaking to the media after winning her second silver with Crystal, Stephanie could not control her tears of joy. Speaking amidst tears, she said, “I am happy because we won…”. She stopped as she could not bring herself to speak anymore. Said Crystal, whose voice was also trembling, “We are happy because we won silver, and it’s the best we have done.” She added, “It (the double silver) means a lot to us because this is our first SEA Games. We are really happy to have done Singapore proud.”
Although they have participated in other competitions, including the FINA World Championships in July 2011, Stephanie said that the SEA Games medals really bear a different meaning. “To be considered silver medallists in the SEA Games is really an honour for us,” she explained. It was really discipline, commitment and hard work that brought them so far. Their exemplary performance over the past few days proved that their sacrifices were worthwhile. “Not many people want to do this sport in Singapore because it’s tough. But I hope we have proved that it can be done, so that more people will join,” Stephanie said.
On what motivated them during their competition in Palembang, Crystal said, “We feel very happy to hear our parents cheering for us from the spectator’s stand. So we want to do our best and do them proud.” Indeed, parental support was clear. Present at the Aquatic Centre where the competition took place were a team of adults clad in blue t-shirts that read, “I love synchro swimming”, where ‘love’ was represented by a heart-shaped Singapore flag. They were the family members of the swimmers.
Jane, Crystal’s mom, said she felt honored that her daughter could represent Singapore in the SEA Games. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is not something that money can buy.” Apart from providing moral support, many parents also lent their hands in terms of costumes, a crucial aspect to the sport. Said team manager Philip Lee, “Many of the parents are very involved in getting the crystals sewn onto the costumes and making the headdresses.” He said that many of the mothers also serve as ‘make-up artists’ and team managers when the girls compete all over the world. “Parental involvement really built up the team over the past few years,” he added. They, like their daughters, are also hoping for greater recognition for the sport.