By Edna Lim (22S03F) and Sonia Maya (22A01C)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society
Following a remarkable 5-0 win against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in the semifinals, the Team Raffles Badminton boys proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with. On 9th May 2022, they stepped into the courts of Our Tampines Hub to face off against Dunman High School (DHS) in the long-awaited finals games.
1st Singles, Aloysius Tan (22S06O)
Though one would expect an athlete to be in the pink of health during their National School Games (NSGs), such was not the case for Aloysius. Having suffered an agonising back injury mere months ago, Aloysius was still in recovery during his NSGs. Nonetheless, he stepped up to the court with victory in mind and painkillers in hand. In his semifinals match against ACS(I), he overcame all odds, clinching the win that cemented his team’s advancement to the finals.
Employing aggressive cross-court smashes and well-calculated backhand shots, Aloysius seized the first set of the finals with an applaudable 21-12 lead. Unfortunately, his injury caught up with him soon after as DHS levelled the playing field, taking the second set 13-21.
Tied 1-1, Aloysius was forced to play a third set, a daunting prospect for any injured player. Nonetheless, he retained his sporting dexterity, delivering impressive smashes and dropshots throughout. Decked in black polo shirts and armed with bright green clappers, Team Raffles cheered their hearts out to motivate Aloysius in the final stretch of his game.
Alas, Aloysius’ back injury left him marginally outmatched by the Dunman athlete, as the latter took the last set with a narrow 17-21 victory.
Though Aloysius was unable to prove his full potential at this match, his opponent’s yellow card tells us that the loss may just have more to do with the Dunmanian’s overindulgence in water breaks than a true disparity in skill.
1st Doubles, Declan Lim (22S06I) and He Junhao (22S06O)
Now at a 0-1 loss, Declan and Junhao anxiously faced the doubles match that would either widen or close the gap between RI and DHS. Though the team made a couple of unforced errors in the beginning, they eventually found their footing and took the first set 21-13.
The pair displayed their incredible chemistry formed over an admirable 6-year sporting relationship as they danced effortlessly across the court to deliver quick but deadly returns. Eager to capitalise on their current lead to even the playing field for Raffles, the pair played their hearts out to establish an insane 11-1 lead by the middle of the second set.
With the prospect of a Dunman victory in the match now bleaker than ever, Team RI sped through the remaining points to clinch the win in a mere 2 sets and a whopping 21-8 margin in the second set.
2nd Singles, Tai Ming Wei (22S07B)
One of the players to have previously trained with the national intermediate squad, the opponent from DHS was faced with no easy feat going up against Tai Ming Wei (22S07B).
With effortless stroke play as he whipped out smash after smash, Ming Wei closed out the first set with a score of 21-16. Set to get himself over the finishing line, he entered into the second set with his rhythm already going. A repertoire of techniques up his sleeve – impressive lobs, drop shots and precision-like smashes – he unfurled them one by one, seamlessly and comfortably.
The opponent put up a good fight, but he was unable to keep up with Ming Wei’s natural quick movements. Through the game, Ming Wei persisted in making the gap in skill level between him and his opponent more obvious, eventually winning by a 21-10 margin.
2nd Doubles, Kon Zhan Li (23S06E) and Gabriel Chong (23S06N)
With an overall 2-1 lead, the momentum was with Zhan Li and Gabriel to sweep a victory for Raffles. They were met with a formidable pair from DHS, who, determined to bring the game to a decider after their initial two losses, took the first set by a close margin of 21-18.
However, Team Raffles was far from defeated. Fiercely competitive rallies from the get-go heralded a tight contest for the second win. Buoyant jumps and exacting flicks of the wrist made for potent smashes as both players repeatedly and mercilessly strike towards the opponents’ vulnerable spots.
The chemistry between them was exceptional, giving their opponents little opportunity to break through their defence. They made a triumphant comeback, taking the second and third sets 21-9 and 21-12 respectively. In the words of Zhan Li:
“I think what led me to my victory was mainly confidence. Confidence in my team and my partner to achieve victory as well. This fact allowed me to remain calm even when I had my back against the wall. This confidence really helped me to get rid of my worries during the match and play to the best of my abilities, allowing me to secure the win.”
3rd Singles, Nixon Yap (23S06G)
Though Team Raffles had already clinched first place having won 3 out of 5 matches, Nixon Yap contended for one more win to bring the tournament to a close. With the burden of expectation off their shoulders, both teams were able to play more freely, and the young Year 5 clutched a tight win of 21-18 in the first set.
Not resting on his laurels, he glided swiftly around the court to combat his opponents’ hits with his quick reflexes and deft touch. His opponent was not brisk enough to keep up with his prolific movements. Nixon went for the jugular with his precise and agile lobs, and the DHS player was unable to find his footing, allowing Nixon to win the second set 21-10 and earning a 4-1 victory for Team Raffles.
Jun Hao, the captain of the Boys’ Team, had one final message for his batchmates:
“…I’m really grateful that we are able to compete together one last time before graduating…In [these] short 1.5 years in JC, we trained together, ate together, got punished together. It was definitely a journey that I’ll remember for life and it’s even more memorable that we managed to become national champions, achieving the goal we set for ourselves before the season began. I’m grateful to be able to play beside each and every one of you and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
And from Raffles Press, congratulations to the team for their excellent results and for demonstrating such great spirit all towards the very end!
Badminton Boys’ Team Members
He Junhao (Captain), 22S06O
Tan Keng Hng Aloysius, 22S06O
Loh Yi Rui, 23S06I
Tai Ming Wei, 22S07B
Terence Tan Chun Fai (Vice-captain), 22A01D
Derrick Tee Cai Xu, 22S06E
Lim Yu Heng Declan, 22S06I
Kon Zhan Li, 23S06E
Matthew Teo Xuan Zhi, 23S03E
Gregory Lim, 23S06T
Gabriel Chong Su Kang, 23S06N
Nixon Yap Zhe Hong, 23S06G