12 February 18 The Straits Times by LIM SAY HENG
It was not smooth sailing for Alexander Lim on the waters off the National Sailing Centre at East Coast Park yesterday, on the last day of the Singapore Open Windsurfing Championships.
A competitor collided with him at a turn in the penultimate race, causing the 15-year-old to "lose a lot of places" in that race. He also had an equipment problem in the 12th and last race in the boys' Techno 293+ class.
Despite the setbacks, Alexander did enough to finish fourth overall in a fleet of 40 windsurfers with a net score of 63.4 points in the four-day regatta, which also served as the Asian qualifier for the Oct 6-18 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With his result, the teenager clinched for the Republic one of three YOG spots in the event; it is the first time a Singaporean male windsurfer has qualified in three editions of the Games, which debuted here in 2010.
"I am very happy and proud of myself, but also very tired, mentally and physically," said Alexander after the regatta.
"Qualifying for the YOG has been my aim since I switched from the Optimist class three years ago, and I have finally achieved it."
China also secured one of the YOG berths yesterday, after Chen Haoze (28 net points) and Song Zihao (36) finished first and second respectively.
Each country can send only one athlete or team in each of the five sailing events at the Games.
Japan snagged the remaining slot via Takumi Ikeda, who finished ninth (83), as Hong Kong - who had four athletes who were better-placed than Takumi - had already secured their slot from the World Championships in France last July.
Despite the snafus in his last two races, Alexander said he was confident of making the race cut.
"After the first day, I was five points in front of everyone, and that made me more confident... and I was 15 points ahead of the next best Asian at the start of today, so I was quite confident of making it," said Alexander, who quit school at Gan Eng Seng at the start of last year.
It was double joy for the Republic yesterday, as Marsha Shahrin secured a YOG girls' Techno 293+ slot when she finished eighth out of 21 athletes with 78 net points.
China - who had five athletes who finished above the 16-year-old - also took one a slot, and Chinese Taipei's Wang Chih-ling (11th, 113 net points) secured the last spot.
While Hong Kong's Mak Cheuk Wing was fifth (39), the Special Administrative Region of China had already qualified at the Worlds.
Marsha, a Year Five Raffles Institution student, was "relieved" after the regatta, having fallen short in her previous qualifying campaigns for major competitions.
"It has been my dream since I was 12 to compete in a major Games, but I've always fallen short; I was second in the Optimist class in internal selections for the 2014 Asian Games, and second again in the same class for the 2015 SEA Games," she said.
"I did my best for this regatta; it may not look good on the result sheet, but I think I have been quite consistent throughout the regatta."
As SingaporeSailing stated in its selection policy that athletes with the lowest scores from the Asian qualifiers will make the Games if they secure the spots at the regatta, both Alexander and Marsha are likely to be nominated, with the Singapore National Olympic Council having the final say.
Audrey Yong clinched a bronze medal in the girls' windsurfing event on home ground in 2010, while Ynez Lim finished 10th in the same event in Nanjing, China, four years later.
Marsha is aiming for a top-five finish in South America, but Alexander has bigger goals.
"I hope to get a medal but I want to win. If the winds are light, I may get a chance since we train in light winds here in Singapore."