NAYPYIDAW - On the final day of competition in wushu, Team Singapore finally bagged their first gold at the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar.
It was also Team Singapore's first gold medal of the Games, coming hours before the men's water polo outfit wrapped up their title.
The wushu gold came through the unlikely duo of Valerie Wee, 24, and Vera Tan, 15, in the women's duilian (unarmed) event yesterday at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium here in Naypyidaw.
They scored 9.63 points to beat Myanmar (9.53) and Indonesia (9.50).
Wee and Vera, who are taiji specialists, collaborated for the first time in duilian, a category they were less familiar with.
Interestingly, Vera is Wee's first disciple at the Sino Wushu Training Centre.
"I have coached her since she first picked up wushu at 11," said Wee, who just graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Commerce in marketing management.
"To see her recruited into the national team and develop into a SEA Games champion now makes me very proud, and to be able to partner her and win gold together feels extra special and meaningful."
Vera, who won gold in taijiquan at the fourth World Junior Championships last year, was full of praise for her teacher, team-mate and friend.
With a cheeky grin, the Dunman High School student told The New Paper: "She can be quite fierce when she spots a mistake in my routine.
"But, other than that, she is very nice and she is like a big sister. I was feeling some nerves before we went on yesterday, but she never fails to keep me calm."
This was the duo's first SEA Games gold and their achievement was all the more impressive considering it was the team's final chance to come away from Myanmar with a win.
"Of course we felt pressure, but that also helped motivate us to give our all," said Wee, who was a bronze medallist at the 2011 SEA Games.
"It's a real honour and privilege to win Singapore's first gold medal at this SEA Games, but it was also kind of unexpected because it's a new discipline for us."
To fully master a duilian routine usually takes around five months, but Wee and Vera had just one month to learn the jumps and work on their stamina and teamwork for the 56-second routine.
For the softspoken Vera, especially, the screaming and ferocity took some getting used to, and she even suffered from a sore throat here.
In the end, all the tough work paid off, as the Singapore wushu team concluded their campaign with one gold, two silvers and two bronze medals. It was one gold short of their target.
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