This weekend, teams from across Southeast Asia competed at the Bishan Sports Hall in Singapore at this year’s Southeast Asian Games. The team competition served as both the team final and the qualifier for the individual finals, held in the days to follow.
For the women, the team from Malaysia set the standard for the competition and managed to maintain their lead throughout all four rotations. Led by Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and returning veteran Tracie Ang, Malaysia was able to win the gold with a solid team score of 206.200, edging out host team Singapore by 3.7 points.
Abdul Hadi also qualified first into the all-around with a 53.250, and also made all four event finals, including the first place spots on bars with a 13.2 (a half point ahead of second place) and floor with a 13.8 (she was third on vault and eighth on beam). Joining her in the all-around, vault, bars, and floor finals was teammate Tan Ing Yueh, and the two combined represented Malaysia’s best chance to make these Games a historic one for their country’s gymnastics program.
Singapore, despite having placed ahead of Malaysia at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, managed second with a score of 202.500. Competing without their star Heem Wei Lim, the first Singaporean women’s artistic gymnast to attend an Olympic Games, the team still competed strongly even though they weren’t able to nab the gold.
A testament to the strength of the top two programs’ team depth was their finish more than 10 points ahead of the third place team. New senior Nadine Nathan managed to qualify in second into the all-around (in addition to 4th on beam and 6th on floor), Janessa Dai qualified into the all-around, and both Dai and Ashly Lau qualified on bars.
The battle for bronze was between the Philippines and Vietnam. Despite Vietnam posting higher scores on vault, bars, and beam, their large deficit on floor allowed the Philippines to win the bronze by less than two tenths after especially strong performances on vault and floor.
The team from the Philippines also had several individual finalists, including Texas girls Ava Verdeflor in the all-around and on bars and Lizzy Leduc on beam. Phan Thi Ha Thanh, third in all-around qualifications, was also successful in her quest to reach multiple event finals, qualifying first on beam by nearly a point in addition to finding spots in the vault, bars, and floor finals even on a somewhat rough day for her.
Though Thailand and Indonesia didn’t factor into the fight for a team medal, both qualified several individuals. Thailand’s Kanyanat Boonteong and Praewpraw Doungchan qualified in second and fourth, respectively, to the vault final, while Indonesia’s Rifda Irfanalutfi led the qualification on vault in addition to making the all-around, beam, and floor finals.
In the women’s all-around competition on June 8, Phan was able to correct her mistakes from qualifications to defend her title as reigning champion. Though she struggled on vault in qualifications, she had the competition of her life in finals, beginning with a clean DTY for a 14.6 and continuing her lead straight to the end. On bars, she suffered from a number of short handstands and a dead hang but managed to nail her double front dismount for an 11.9. Her beam routine was solid aside from a huge wobble after her bhs layout series, though managing her nerves, Phan finished with a hit double pike for a 13.5, at this point leading the field by a huge 1.8 margin. Her final routine on floor was a personal best for her, and garnered a 13.75 leaving her with a grand total of 53.650. Phan was all smiles after hitting her final tumbling pass and celebrated by taking photos with other competitors.
Second place went to Abdul Hadi of Malaysia, who started off with a stuck FTY for a 13.75, though bars and beam would cause her trouble. Her bars routine was solid and had great momentum but she fell on her double pike dismount earning a 12.3. Beam began beautifully with a clean side somi and nicely extended leaps, but her bhs back tuck combination was off-center and resulted in a fall. She recovered well and hit a wonderful y-turn for a 12.05before delivering an expressive routine on floor, including a stuck double back tuck and solid double y-turn. She stumbled on her final pass, a 2.5 twist, leaving her with a 13.75 and a total of 51.850 for silver.
Singapore’s Nadine Joy Nathan managed to secure the bronze in front of the home crowd, sliding just six tenths ahead of the Philippines’ Ava Verdeflor. Nathan began on vault with an FTY with just a few hops to earn a 13.55. Her bar routine bumped her into third position and she managed some beautiful handstands there for a 12.1. On beam, she fell on her bhs loso series and took a number of steps on her 1.5 dismount but was able to get close to Abdul Hadi in the standings, as she also counted a fall. She rallied on floor, receiving a 13.25 with a nice 2.5 twist to finish, and ended with a total of 51.000 for third place.
Missing out on the medals were Verdeflor and Irfanalutfi. Despite qualifying in seventh, Verdeflor proved to be a strong medal contender after two great rotations on bars and beam. Her choreography on floor was engaging and showed clean tumbling, but her low landing on vault left her just shy of the podium with a 50.400 total. Irfanalutfi fell on her 2.5 on floor and her bhs back tuck series on beam, though demonstrated a stuck front tuck half on vault and attempted a triple y-turn on floor, a routine with beautiful dance elements and choreography. She finished in fifth place with a 49.600 total.
On the men’s side, the team competition was a battle for silver, as Vietnam absolutely dominated the event to take gold by a margin of 26 points with a score of 344.700. Vietnam had the top five qualifiers to the all-around but because of the two-per-country rule, only Pham Phuoc Hung and Dinh Phuong Thanh could represent the team in the final.
Pham qualified in first with a monster score of 86.900 and the highest score of the day with his 16.1 on parallel bars, including a highly difficult Tanaka element. Vietnam also managed to lead qualifications on rings, floor, and high bar, and qualified two gymnasts into every event final.
Singapore and Thailand were neck-and-neck for much of the competition, but Singapore was no match for Thailand on pommel horse, where Thailand’s historically strong pommels workers allowed them to earn nearly a four point bump over the host team. Despite strong routines from Singapore on rings and high bar, they finished just 0.05 short of capturing the silver.
The men’s all-around was a battle for gold between the two Vietnamese competitors, Pham and Dinh, and a battle for bronze between Thailand’s Prommanee and Singapore’s Gan and Tay. Despite Pham qualifying in first ahead of Dinh, it was Dinh who came out as the victor thanks to his superior execution and form. Pham’s fall on his pommel horse mount and his short landing on vault left him a point behind Dinh, who claimed gold with an 86.150.
Prommanee began with a strong floor and difficult pommels routine, but lost steam, allowing for Gan to tie him after the fifth rotation for third. Gan struggled throughout the competition, but rallied during his final routine and stuck his double layout high bar dismount, allowing him to snatch the bronze with a 79.350, enough to push ahead of Prommanee, who totaled 78.100. Gan’s teammate Tay totaled 78.250 for fifth.
Competition footage and highlights can be found at the official Singapore youtube page, which is covering and recording nearly every event of the Games.
Article by Esteban Rodriguez-Vazquez