By Jonathan Kit (13S03D)
One would think that after a morale bruising second round 3-2 loss to the very same opponents they would face in the finals, the RI Boys’ A-Division Badminton Team would undergo an intense struggle in defeating the defending champions of the National Inter-school A-Division Badminton Tournament, ACS (I), in the 2012 final. A whole year of training takes place after every season to prepare for the next. Within these long, arduous months, it was the insatiable hunger for the reclamation of the title that kept the RI boys’ team grinding through an entire postseason of grueling trainings. Yet, the ACS(I) team seemed poised as ever to claim their title once again.
This time, however, ACS’s school motto held true—the best was, indeed, yet to be.
The unfazed RI team stepped onto the courts on the 16th of May at Toa Payoh Sports Hall, ready to finish off what they had started. The 1st singles match began with a face-off between two familiar rivals: Ho Huin Kit on the RI side, and Peck Ern-Min from ACS(I). Huin Kit did not let the nerve-wrecking Finals atmosphere get to him, and managed to pull away with a 21-18 victory in the first set of his match. He ended off the first half of the second set with an 11-3 lead, looking to give RI a great start to the series with a convincing victory, but was surprised by his opponent who came fighting back from 8 points down to achieve a 16-14 lead. Still, Huin Kit fell back on his years of experience and refused to let anything derail him from his focus and managed to fight back point for point to attain a 22-20 second set victory, making it 1-0 to RI.
The first doubles pair representing RI consisted of Chung Tze Herng and Irsyad Khan, who played against Joshua Chan and Khaw Jing Huan from ACS. From the very beginning of the first set, the ACS (I) players attacked with admirable vengeance, looking to make up for their teammate’s loss earlier on.This caught our first doubles pair off guard, landing ACS a 21-9 first set victory. However after a quick pep talk by head coach Mr Hamid Khan, the Rafflesian duo entered the second set with renewed composure and resilience, causing the ACS pair to work much harder than before in order to grind out a much better contested second set victory over our boys at a scoreline of 21-15.
The most anticipated match of the finals was the 2nd singles matchup- a clash of the titans between the two best singles players from both teams: Ong Cheng Yuen from the RI side and Alton Chew from ACS(I). The first set of the game did not disappoint with long, hard fought rallies and powerful smashes exchanged, with Cheng Yuen ultimately clinching a 21-18 first set victory. Not to be dismissed easily, Alton came back roaring in the second set to challenge Cheng Yuen’s lead, managing to steal a close second set victory 21-19. In the rubber set, Cheng Yuen used his flawless footwork and deft touches while managing a professional composure to emerge victorious over Alton with a convincing 21-13 triumph.
Looking to close out RI’s 2-1 series lead with a 2nd doubles victory, the Rafflesian duo, Julian Chee and Yu Kern Hong stepped up to battle ACS(I)’s Takahiro Tan and Chay Sai Kin. This was Julian’s first match of the season after recovering from a right hand fracture before season had started, and he proved to the coach that it was indeed the right decision to play Julian in the finals. Julian played impressively, using his impeccable front-court technique to set up plays for Kern Hong to use his powerful smashes and attack in the backcourt, and needless to say the pair was equally spectacular with their defence, emerging with a 21-16 victory. The second set went in the favour of the resilient ACS duo, however, and they managed to push the game to a rubber set with a second set 21-15 victory over our boys. The motivation to close the series out was evident in our Rafflesian duo and they managed to regain their aggressive form in the first set. This helped RI put away ACS(I)’s hopes of defending the title with the game winning shot being an emphatic right-handed tap from Kern Hong, sealing the deal with a 21-13 victory.
At that very moment, the rest of the Boys’ Team came sprinting out from the stands to embrace the 2nd doubles duo and the RI crowd erupted in a thunderous cheer of elation for the new champion team. Needless to say it was a sweet, sweet victory for the RI team, because for many of the team members it was their first national title ever and especially because they had triumphed over the team that had taken the title from them for consecutive years before the 2012 victory. Congratulations, boys!