Singapore women make history by becoming world No. 1 (Article: Straits Times, 30 Jan 2023)
On Jan 1, the Republic’s women’s tchoukball team made history by overtaking powerhouses Chinese Taipei to become world No. 1 for the first time, but for nearly a month, neither the players nor officials knew about the achievement.
Delane Lim, Tchoukball Association of Singapore president, found out through a post on the International Tchoukball Federation’s Facebook page only on Jan 27. He then told one of the players Angie Ng, who is also his colleague. Upon confirming their ranking, Ng let out a scream of “oh my god!” in the office with Lim.
The rest of the team were then informed via their group chat, prompting a flurry of celebratory messages.
Singapore, with 165.65 points, switched places with Chinese Taipei (156.80) in this season’s rankings, while Switzerland (141.38) also moved up a spot to third. The Singapore men’s team are third behind Chinese Taipei and Italy.
The women’s achievement comes after their historic win over Chinese Taipei in the final of the 2022 Asia Pacific Tchoukball Championships in August in Malaysia.
Captain Irene Tan, 32, explained to The Straits Times that it was not the team’s practice to check the rankings, which are updated yearly.
The public servant, who has been in the team since 2009, said: “We were all very excited but also in disbelief. I hope this will give us more confidence to make more history.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved. Since I joined in 2009, the goal has always been to beat Chinese Taipei. It had seemed unattainable and with our hard work, we put in our best and tweaked what we needed to such that we’re able to achieve today’s result.”
She added that the ranking is also a confidence boost ahead of August’s Tchoukball World Championships in Prague, where she hopes Singapore will come out tops.
Ng, 29, who has been in the national team for 11 years, added: “My first thought was about how our pioneers have set up the sport for us throughout the years and I hope this achievement can make them proud of us.”
Both players attributed their success to increased video analysis done by the team, including before the August final.
That helped the players identify their opponents’ playing styles and how to counter them, said Tan, adding that the team’s tactical discipline and mix of youth and experienced players were also reasons behind their triumph.
Ng, a management associate, also credited national coach Jeff Ang for helping the team navigate challenges, such as balancing sport with work or studies, since he joined in 2018.
He had also helped her overcome a period of doubt in 2020, when she was considering retiring as she had felt inadequate after the Covid-19 pandemic put them out of action.
She said: “Jeff helped me find my bearings again. He told me to come back to training first and to not give myself too much pressure.
“When I went back in January 2021, I felt like I was rediscovering my love for the sport and I wanted to continue doing it for a while more.”
The players and Lim hope the achievement will raise the profile of the sport in Singapore and encourage more people to pick it up.
He also hopes to get the sport included in the National School Games and as a demonstration sport in the 2027 SEA Games in Malaysia to pave the way for it to become a medal event two years later on home soil.
Lim, who is also vice-president of the Asia Pacific Tchoukball Federation, said: “As president, I hope to be able to ride this wave of success and do more for the sport in Singapore and regionally.
“It takes a village to raise a child. Likewise in any sport, we need the whole village to rally behind our teams to let them know that we are supporting them. I do hope that we will have more corporate partners and individual supporters to come on board to help sustain our performance and provide opportunities for our players to succeed and win more for Singapore.”