29 September 17 The Straits Times by HO CAI JUN
Grey clouds appeared at the start of the South-east Asian Beach Volleyball Championships at Sentosa's Palawan Beach yesterday morning, but the weather was not the only thing that was unclear.
For Singapore's three women's beach volleyball teams, it was their first international-level competition. And while they were eager to impress supporters on home soil, they were up against unfamiliar opponents in the pool matches.
While it remains to be seen whether the hosts are on equal footing with South-east Asia's best, the women are determined to improve, having already identified weaknesses to work on.
Ong Wei Yu, 23, and Serene Ng, 17, fared the best, winning twice to advance to the elimination stages.
They beat Laos' Mitta Vatthana and Phouthuksa Keovixay 21-14, 21-6 in the morning, then defeated Thailand's Yodsaphat Pakham and Pronsuda Kritsana in a thrilling 21-15, 20-22, 15-11 win, meaning that their remaining match today is inconsequential.
"We're happy with our wins, but we have to get ready for our next match," said Ong. "(But) we're not as tense as before."
In contrast, Huang Zihui and Kelly Sim lost their opening tie 15-21, 13-21 to Indonesia's Desi Ratnasari and Yokebed Eka, but recovered to beat Malaysia's Chia Chou Hwa and Elaine Lee 13-21, 21-19, 15-8.
Huang said she regretted her early-set errors in the opener, explaining: "I had two service mistakes in my first set and two mistakes in my second - four points given away just like that."
They can still make the elimination stages if they defeat their Vietnamese opponents today.
So can the team of Eliza Chong and Gladys Lee. They beat Timor Leste's Alin Leticia and Adilijia Caminha 21-12, 21-12 in the morning, with clear communication key to victory as they were able to call out the type and the placing of shots effectively to each other.
In the afternoon, they lost 12-21, 10-21 to the Philippines' Fiola Caballos and Patty Orendain, and will need to beat Vietnam today.
All three Singapore men's teams stayed in contention to advance out of the pool stage, despite winning only two of five matches, with Mark Shen/Poon Pei Jie and Gilbert Tan/Zhuo Hong Chuan chalking up a win and a loss each.
Trevis Tan and Yeo Sun Peng lost 16-21, 18-21 to Gilang Ramadhan and Danangsyah Pribadi from Indonesia, but can still advance if they beat Vietnam in their final tie.
This is the first time Singapore is hosting the South-east Asian championships, and spectators can look forward to after-party activities tonight and tomorrow night, featuring live performances from local artistes Jack & Rai, 53A and Second Sunrise.
Competition director Brian Tan said: "We want more locals to experience international games, feel the vibes of beach volleyball and what sort of entertainment beach volleyball can bring as a sport.
"It's not only just watching a competitive sport, but it's also to gel the entertainment and sporting element together so that viewers can have a unique experience."