United till the end

Final year BSc in Economics student, Koh Xiao Li, reports on a silver medal win for the Singaporean women's water polo team at the 2017 SEA Games
Singaporean women's water polo team
Silver medal winners: the Singaporean women's water polo team (Xiao Li pictured fifth from right)
I am excited about what my team can do in the future, achieving greater heights in many years to come

Unity, passion and commitment were the three core values that we pledged as a team eight months before we started the campaign for the SEA Games. As a debutant, it gave me great honour to represent my country at a major tournament. I was also able to gain exposure at an international level.

It wasn’t an easy task to build team camaraderie in the pool and mutual trust with only eight months to go before the Games – we were individuals with different commitments, abilities and mindsets. While we had little time to adjust and adapt to each other, the love for the sport kept us going strong.

Training was on a daily basis; three hours in the evening, except for Saturdays and even twice on some days. We also had sparring partners from China and Japan. In June, we spent 10 days in Japan training with a water polo club in Niigata. In the last month leading up to the Games, we invited China’s Sichuan club team to Singapore for sparring matches.

"It was from mistakes and disagreements during training that we learnt to compromise and complement each other."

Up until the very last week before the games, we had an amazing team of sport scientists helping us out with visualisations of gameplay, giving us  constant reminders  on communications and decision-making. They even went to the extent of creating unfavourable situations that could happen during the games to mentally prepare us for the big day. (Pictured below left: Xiao Li in action.)

Koh Xiao Li in actionIt was from mistakes and disagreements during training that we learnt to compromise and complement each other, forming a chemistry while playing as a team. Through matches, we further strengthened our trust in one another. 

Training intensity increased during the last lap of preparation. It was truly tough and hard to endure. Again, having like-minded team mates striving for the gold medal made the painful process a little more bearable. 

Our first match was against Indonesia and we won 7-6. We then played with the host country, Malaysia, and won 12-6.  As a team, we were hoping to win the gold that we had narrowly lost out on to Thailand in the last SEA Games held in Singapore in 2015. Unfortunately, we failed to beat the Thailand team, with a score of 5-1. 

It was one of the best games we had played together since the team was formed. Sticking to the game plan, we didn’t give up till the game ended. Although we put up a good fight against the Thais, it wasn’t enough to beat them. They deserved the win and we can still improve. 

Disappointments are inevitable but we have gained much more. The eight-month long process strengthened us. Together, we actualised the vision we had set, forming a committed, passionate team which was united till the end. Thanks to our coach who patiently stood by us and chose to believe in us. Without him, we wouldn’t have accomplished this much in such a short time. With that, I am excited about what my team can do in the future, achieving greater heights in many years to come.

  • Koh Xiao Li is a final year University of London BSc in Economics student at SIM Global Education. She was part of the team who brought home a silver in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
  • Xiao Li is the only SIM student who represented Singapore in the SEA Games, unlike the last games held in Singapore in 2015 when over 14 SIM students represented Singapore and 17 medals were brought home. 
  • SIM Global Education is an Affiliate Centre for the University of London International Programmes.
  • Find out more about studying for a University of London degree in Singapore.