Men's softball team, shuttler Loh Kean Yew score major upsets

Singapore's men's softball team celebrate after winning their first-ever SEA Games gold against favourites Philippines at the SEA Games. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Two huge upset victories sent waves of excitement through Team Singapore at the SEA Games on Sunday (8 December).

In the morning, the men’s softball team stunned hosts Philippines in the final, beating them 6-1 to clinch their first ever gold medal at the Clark International Sports Complex in New Clark City.

How stunning was this win? The hosts have won gold in nine of the 10 times the sport was featured at the SEA Games, their last loss coming 22 years ago in 1997 against Indonesia.

Even the Singapore players could hardly believe their victory, celebrating with tears of joy over their momentous achievement.

“The players are all overjoyed,” said captain Ivan Ng told SG Sport TV. “We’ve journeyed a long way from 2015, when we last played at the SEA Games. We trained in Japan and Australia, and we went to Czech Republic in June to compete with the best at the Men’s Softball World Championship. This makes it so worthwhile.”

After the first two scoreless innings, Singapore came to life, scoring three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth. After that scoring burst, they kept the Filipinos quiet until the final inning with some sterling defensive work.

The Singapore men's softball team in action against the Philippines in the final, which they won 6-1 for the gold medal. (PHOTO: Sport Singapore)

Even more remarkably, Singapore were thumped 0-8 by the same Philippines side when the two teams first met in the earlier stage of the competition on Wednesday.

The two side met again in the page play-offs on Friday, and Singapore eked out a 4-3 win. Then, Philippines media had already described the loss as “the biggest upset in the sport” at the SEA Games.

The Philippines still made the final after a 9-0 win over Indonesia, but they could not avenge their loss to Singapore, who vowed to build on this gold-medal win with their youthful team.

“Our players are still young, our average age is around 22 or 23, and they are hungry to showcase themselves on the world stage. I hope this team will go a long way in establishing the sport in Singapore.”

Loh Kean Yew stuns top seed to reach final for shot at gold

Then in the afternoon, Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew scored an upset win in the men’s singles semi-finals against top seeded Thai Kantaphon Wangcharoen 16-21, 21-6, 21-9 at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex in Manila.

Singapore's Loh Kean Yew in action during the men's singles quarter-finals. (PHOTO: Reuters/Feline Lim)

The 22-year-old world No. 30 thus earned himself a shot at gold on Monday against Malaysia’s world No. 14 Lee Zii Jia.

It is the first time since 2007 that a Singaporean shuttler has entered the men’s singles final. Then, Kendrick Lee lost in the final to former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia.

The last time Singapore had won the badminton men’s singles event was way back in 1983, when Wong Shoon Keat beat Hastomo Arbi of Indonesia for the gold on home soil.

Against world No. 13 Kantaphon, Loh started off sluggishly but picked up the pace in the second game to seal his biggest win since January, when he stunned Chinese star Lin Dan to win the Thailand Masters.

“First set, my speed was a bit slow. But I pick up the speed at second set and third set, that made the difference,” he told Yahoo News Singapore. “I feel happy right now, but at the same time I need to calm myself down soon to prepare for the next match.”