Formative years with the relay team
I still vividly remember my first day at relay training at the age of 17, held at the ITE College East Campus. I was there to train up for the junior relay team. Incidentally, the senior team was also training there.
We had 16 runners from both the senior and junior teams training together. We developed very good relay skills as we often had to complete a set of stationary passes, closing our eyes, doing 2x curve 2x straight striding with a baton. I still recall we had challenges with the baton that gave trainings more variety; the losing team would end up doing forfeits. It spurred us to do the drill well, and more importantly together. These formative years indeed developed my baton exchange skills. The Singapore team is able to perform pretty well in the relays because our relay skills are impeccable, where the zone baton exchange speed is maxed out. This can be seen by comparing the overall relay time with the summation of our individual 100m ground speed. The difference in timings indicates the relay skills timing.
Changing of coaches from Coach Hamkah Afik & Coach Tang Ngai Kin
With Coach Melvin Tan, the relay skills were also very good as we had the opportunity to travel a lot more as a team. We had been through the Asian Games (Guangzhou 2010, Incheon 2014) and Commonwealth Games (New Delhi, Glasgow 2014) twice, with all of us competing in at least 4 SEA Games.
It’s been 7 years of competing and training together (with the exception of Naqib who joined us 2 years ago). 7 years with the rest of the guys — Elfi Mustapa, Amirudin Bin Jamal, Lee Cheng Wei and Gary Yeo, have been memorably marked with silver medals.
At the SEA Games 2009, Elfi, Gary, Cheng Wei and Amir bagged the silver medal with a new national record of 39.82s — it was the first time Singapore had broken the 40s barrier. This was the most exhilarating relay race I had ever watched and I kept replaying it, watching them blaze across the track in a flash of red and stars. Team Singapore had finally did it; our dreams of a podium finish were finally realised. It had been more than 30 years since the relay team had secured a medal at the SEA Games for the relay. That pivotal win spurred us on to continue the medal streak for the relay team.
Timings began improving each year, dropping to 39.62s in 2010 and 39.45s in 2013. The consistent improvement in the national record was solidified with a 39.24s this year, a 0.57s improvement from 2009, marked by a bittersweet silver medal. This timing would have given us a shot at the 2013 IAAF Word Championships for the relay, but it was insufficient to snatch the gold from the Thais who ran an impressive 38.99s
It’s amazing to see that even though as individuals, we might not be as quick as the rest of Asia or the world, but our efforts, dedication and skills for the relay have enabled us to run a decently good time! Now it’s time for us to part ways after 7 eventful years together. The next generation of relay sprinters will be slowly built up through these similar formative bonds and processes. I don’t know what the next generation of relay sprinters will be like, but I hope they will be determined and willing to carry on the legacy left by this generation of relay sprinters.