Singapore sports round-up (29 Jan-4 Feb): Loh Kean Yew loses in final, more playing opportunities at NSG

Paddlers earn main-draw berths at WTT Singapore Smash; Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel graces youth football event

Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the Malaysia Open in January 2024.
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the Malaysia Open in January 2024. (PHOTO: How Foo Yeen/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Here is a round-up of sports events and developments in Singapore in the past week (29 January to 4 February):

Loh Kean Yew can't end his title drought at Thailand Masters

Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew was unable to end his title drought since winning the 2021 Badminton World Championships men's singles title, as he lost 16-21, 21-6, 16-21 to Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen at the Thailand Masters in Bangkok on Sunday (4 February).

The 26-year-old world No.12 was the second seed at the BWF World Tour Super 300 tournament, and defeated Taiwan's Huang Yu-kai (21-15, 21-13), Israel's Misha Zilberman (21-9, 21-6), Japan's Takuma Obayashi (21-13, 21-13) and Taiwan's Su Li-yang (21-14, 21-14) to reach his first final since last year's Korean Open.

Loh had won his first BWF World Tour title at the Thailand Masters after beating Lin Dan in the 2019 final, but found 34-year-old Chou in superb form, as he was beaten after a 62-minute battle. He earned US$7,980 in prize money for finishing runner-up, and will next play at the Badminton Asia Team Championships from 13 to 19 February in Malaysia.

Paddlers secure main-draw berths at Singapore Smash

Singapore national paddlers Izaac Quek and Koen Pang (men’s singles) and Zeng Jian and Zhou Jingyi (women’s singles) have secure main-draw berths at the WTT Singapore Smash, which will be held from 7 to 17 March at the Singapore Sports Hub or a third straight edition. They are the first players to receive a Singapore Smash host wildcard.

Quek, 17, will be seeking to repeat his sensational run to the round of 16 at last year's event. Meanwhile, Zeng - a recent WTT Feeder Series winner - will also be seeking a breakthrough performance in her home WTT Grand Smash.

Defending men's and women's singles champions Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha will return, with world No.1 Fan seeking a third consecutive title. He faces stiff competition from world No.2 Wang Chuqin, the reigning WTT Finals men's champion, and table tennis great Ma Long, who had consecutive runner-up finishes in Singapore

Sun, on the other hand, is on a nine-match WTT winning streak, having clinched victories at WTT Finals last December as well as the WTT Star Contender Doha last month. She will battle against 2022 champion Chen Meng, as well as world No.5 and four-time WTT Series winner Hina Hayata.

New NSG competition format allows for more playing opportunities

Student-athletes participating in team sports at the upper primary and lower secondary levels will have more opportunities to compete under the new Pool and League competition format at this year’s National School Games (NSG).

The Ministry of Education announced during the NSG opening ceremony at the Singapore Sports Hub on Tuesday (30 January) that some school teams competing in this year’s Games will be grouped into various pools based on their results from last year’s NSG. This approach will allow teams of comparable abilities to play in the same pool, and provide a positive competitive and learning experience for participating student-athletes.

Under the new format, student-athletes participating in team sports will have opportunities to play a minimum of six matches throughout the NSG, compared to the traditional competition format where teams may be eliminated after the first round of competition.

Based on their performance in the Pool round, school teams can then advance to compete in the League round, where teams of comparable abilities play against one another and those in the top League will compete for divisional championship titles.

Starting from 2024, 10 sports in the Senior Division and nine sports in the C Division will adopt the Pool and League competition format:

  • Senior Division sports: badminton, basketball, floorball, football, hockey, netball, rugby, softball, table tennis and volleyball.

  • C Division sports: basketball, floorball, football, hockey, sepak takraw, softball, table tennis, tennis and water polo.

Ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel (white shirt) interacting with young footballers at the Junior Stars Football Special event organised by Central Singapore CDC at Catholic High School. (PHOTO: Central Singapore CDC)
Ex-Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel (white shirt) interacting with young footballers at the Junior Stars Football Special event organised by Central Singapore CDC at Catholic High School. (PHOTO: Central Singapore CDC)

Peter Schmeichel graces Junior Stars Football Special

The Premier League teamed up with Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) and telco StarHub on Saturday (3 February) to provide children from low-income families with football coaching, with a surprise appearance from Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel.

Hosted at the Catholic High School and led by Premier League community coaches from West Ham United FC and Burnley FC, the children – aged seven to 13 – participated in the Junior Stars Football Special, designed to develop practical football skills and teach valuable life skills. The session was also attended by Mayor of Central Singapore District Denise Phua.

The children took part in a series of workshops, with themes including teamwork, diversity and emotional wellbeing. They also got the opportunity to ask questions to Schmeichel in a mock press conference, before taking part in football skills sessions and a mini-tournament.

The Premier League was supporting the Junior Stars programme as part of its activity marking the fifth anniversary of its first international office opening in Singapore.

15 of top 20 golfers at HSBC Women's World C'ship

Entries have closed for the 2024 HSBC Women’s World Championship, with 15 out of the world’s top 20 and all the reigning Major champions set to compete at Sentosa Golf Club from 29 February to 3 March.

The Major champions in the field have a total of 28 titles between them and include all of last year’s major winners: Lilia Vu (The Chevron Championship and the AIG Women’s Open), Allisen Corpuz (US Women’s Open), Ruoning Yin (KPMG Women’s PGA Championship), and Celine Boutier (The Amundi Evian Championship).

Among this all-star field are three Chinese golfers who have graduated from the CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Programme: Yu Liu, a 28-year-old from Beijing; Lin Xiyu, the 11th-ranked player in the world; and world No.2 Yin Ruoning. Meanwhile Chen Xing Tong, a 15-year-old Singaporean amateur, won the national qualifier at Sentosa last week, earning her chance to compete among the best of women's golf.

In the coming weeks, five sponsor invitees will be announced, as well as the winners of the 2024 Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions, the 2024 LPGA Drive On Championship and the 2024 Honda LPGA Thailand, if not already qualified.

New MOU to make golf more accessible for public

A second tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been inked among the Singapore Golf Association (SGA), Singapore Professional Golfers’ Association (SPGA), and NTUC Club on Sunday (28 January), aiming to make golf even more accessible and inclusive for all Singaporeans.

Under the first MOU signed in 2021, the My Golf Kaki (MGK) Academy was established to provide golfing programmes, and facilitate learning experiences for Singaporeans. The latest agreement will see continued efforts, with NTUC Club leveraging on SGA’s "Get Golfing!" and SPGA's community programme to further promote its community outreach initiatives under one of its principles of collaboration.

MGK Academy, run by NTUC Club, will introduce various introductory golf programmes with SGA assisting in the curation golf programmes and SPGA professionals acting as golf ambassadors to engage participants. The Academy will also serve as one of the training centres for school programmes, with proficiency certificates issued.

Lion City Sailors renews partnership with AMP Lab

Local healthcare practitioner AMP Lab was announced on Tuesday (30 January) as the official partner of the Lion City Sailors women’s team for the 2024 Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, renewing a partnership which started in July 2023.

The key highlights of these partnership include:

  • Structured strength and conditioning program: AMP Lab will design and conduct strength and conditioning sessions specially tailored for women footballers.

  • Sports science support: Through key facets of Sports Science that include biomechanical analysis and recovery strategies, the Sailors women will receive holistic player development which addresses both physical and mental aspects of the game.

  • Injury prevention and rehabilitation: AMP Lab’s expertise will be leveraged to establish comprehensive injury prevention protocols and rehabilitation programs for players.

  • Educational initiatives: AMP Lab will organise workshops and resources to empower the footballers with knowledge on exercise physiology and athlete nutrition.

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