By Jeremiah Ong


As the curtains descended on Team Singapore’s 16-day campaign, one that saw new highs in national records and personal bests, the contingent can take pride in a performance that bodes well for the future.


Among the attendees at the Games closing ceremony on Sunday (Oct 8) were Chef de Mission, Dr Koh Koon Teck, support staff and athletes from artistic swimming, marathon swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. The contingent was led by flagbearer and Olympian Chantal Liew.


Liew led the 41-strong contingent of athletes, officials and support staff at the closing ceremony (Photo: SNOC/ Eng Chin An)


Marathon swimmer Liew finished a commendable fifth in her 10km final on Friday (Oct 6), but exuded the same fiery ambition and undying pursuit of sporting excellence that many of Team Singapore’s athletes embodied at the Games.


Already looking beyond her results achieved at the Games, she said: “Fifth at the Asian Games to 2018 me (was) a big deal. But now, I just expect more from myself and I wanted to be in the fight for the medals but it's okay we're learning.”


Team Singapore’s Asiad campaign saw an equally fitting end with a glitzy spectacle on display at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.


The two-hour-long closing ceremony was graced by Chinese Premier Li Qiang, with the hosts once again sparing no expense to impress the crowd. Flashy projections adorned the mesh screen that spanned the length of the stadium and colourful lights lit up the digital turf.


Performers sing and dance against the colourful backdrop of pyrotechnics and digital projections. (Photo: SNOC/ Eng Chin An)


Just like the Games, the republic’s Asiad outing also ended on a high thanks to a historic bronze by Xiangqi’s Ngo Lan Huong on the penultimate day of competition. That took Team Singapore’s medal tally to 3 gold, 6 silver and 7 bronze medals, sitting 20th in the medal standings. 


This year’s medal haul is by no means Team Singapore’s best with the 427-strong contingent having to endure a slew of painful near misses with 10 fourth-place finishes in swimming, two in ju-jitsu and a handful of quarterfinal exits in fencing.


However, the team can take heart in the progress being made towards closing the gap with regional competitors with six national records, 14 personal bests and many battling displays.


Team Singapore’s largest athlete contingent at an Asiad was a first showing for many of the participants with a total of 334 debutants.


The contingent also celebrated more welcome firsts - a first xiangqi medal, a first wushu silver, a first canoe kayak silver and a first athletics gold in 49 years.


The above were all achieved by athletes who had narrowly missed out on the podium in the last Asiad and clawed their way to redemption in this edition.


The pick of the bunch in the silverware department was the sailing team with two gold, two silver and three bronzes across 14 events.


For others like women’s football custodian Noor Kusumawati Mohammad Rosman, the Games meant more than silverware with these Games not only her first but her last. The goalkeeping stalwart plans to retire, having hit half a century of caps for the national team and made her Asiad debut.


“It’s definitely sad knowing that this chapter of my life is coming to a close. Representing my country in tournaments used to be an “every year thing” for me, and after this, it’s going to feel different, but that’s life.”


But just as the torch changed hands during the closing ceremony, the flame of sporting excellence will be passed down to the next generation of athletes.


Acting President of the Olympic Council of Asia Raja Randhir Singh said in his speech: “The Asian Games flame will soon be extinguished but the spirit of the Asian Games will continue to burn.”


Skater Keenan Brunkard, 15, who is one of the youngest in the delegation, described his Asiad outing as an “amazing opportunity” and one that helped him to learn more about himself as an athlete.


Also 15 and an Asiad debutant, was Kiera Lee, a part of the eight-woman artistic swimming team. 


“I feel very grateful to be able to qualify for (the) Asian Games as it is one of the major Games and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”


“This competition has pushed me to (want to) compete in more competitions in the future I would like to participate in more SEA Games like the ones in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and future Asian Games like the one in 2026. I would also like to participate in the Olympics one day,” the Methodist Girls’ School student said.


The Games cauldron was extinguished to signify the official end of the Games. (Photo: SNOC/ Eng Chin An)


Though the lights in the stadium have dimmed and the Games cauldron extinguished, Team Singapore’s athletes will leave Hangzhou with a sporting spirit that will continue to burn bright.


The 19th Asian Games are held in Hangzhou, China from 23 September to 8 October 2023. For the latest Team Singapore coverage and news, follow Team Singapore on their social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) or visit the official Team Singapore website.