|Shafinas Wins Singapore's second YOG medal
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By Chia Han Keong
DOWN 4-9 with about 11/2 min to go in her Youth Olympic Games (YOG) semi-final bout last night, Singapore's taekwon-do athlete Shafinas Abdul Rahman heard something that gave her a sudden rush of determination.
It was the sound of about 200 spectators all screaming "Singapore! Singapore!", while clapping their hands loudly.
Spurred by the noisy support, the 17-year-old Republic Polytechnic student went on the offensive against her Vietnamese opponent, Nguyen Thanh Thao - and scored a three-point head hit with a minute to go to close her deficit to 7-9.
The screams got louder.
Shafinas continued her onslaught on a rattled Nguyen - and scored a body hit for one point. With about 10sec left, the score was 8-9.
By this time, her supporters were on their feet, hollering her on for an unlikely comeback.
Shafinas was even more aggressive, kicking furiously at Nguyen in hopes of landing a hit.
Alas, Nguyen held on for the one-point win, and Shafinas lost out on a final appearance and a shot at gold in her 55kg division.
Nonetheless, she was grateful to the vociferous crowd, saying after her bout: "I want to thank them for giving me that extra motivation. I was really pumped up to land that final blow. They were really great."
As there is no third-place play-off in taekwon-do competitions, Shafinas landed Singapore's second YOG bronze, a day after Daryl Tan did the same in the boys' 55kg division.
Like Daryl, she received a bye straight into the quarter-finals, and duly trounced her Kiribati opponent, Kaburee Ioanne, 9-0 to reach the last four.
But, while Daryl was no match for his semi-final opponent, Iran's world youth champion Kaveh Rezaei, Shafinas put on a far more thrilling battle against Nguyen, even taking the lead at 3-2.
However, a couple of lapses allowed Nguyen to land costly head shots that swung the bout in favour of the Vietnamese.
Said Shafinas: "My coach kept telling me to protect my head, but she was quick to react to my mistakes. It is quite disappointing."
Her disappointment was short-lived, as she was smiling broadly when Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Singapore YOG organising committee chairman Ng Ser Miang congratulated her after her media interviews.
Then Daryl appeared, and the two YOG medall i s t s exchanged high-fives and smiles as they walked towards the athletes' rest area.
Indeed, taekwon-do has been a surprise sport for Singapore's YOG medal harvest so far.
National coach Wong Liang Ming attributed the success to the athletes' dedication and hard work.
"While we have been sending them to overseas competitions and for training, we were impressed by how dedicated they were despite their academic commitments," she said. "We hope that they can inspire more young taekwon-do athletes to take part competitively."
Indeed, Shafinas' participation at the YOG is a remarkable feat, considering that the 1.72m-tall girl was a netball player.
She trained sporadically in taekwon-do, and even gave up the sport in 2008 to concentrate on her studies.
But it is apparent that she has a talent for the martial art.
Two months after rejoining the Singapore Taekwondo Federation last November, she went on to win gold at the Singapore Elite Youth Championships in January.
She then landed a silver at the Asian Cities Gold Cup in Hong Kong a month later.
And, now, she has won probably her most significant medal in the sport.
There was also good news for the Republic in the swimming competition at the Singapore Sports School, as the boys' 4x100m freestyle team reached Singapore's first YOG swim final.
The quartet of Arren Quek, Pang Sheng Jun, Rainer Ng and Clement Lim eventually finished seventh in 3min 27.46sec.
The race was won by the Russian team in 3:23.91.
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