Bangkok, Thailand, August 18, 2020 — Their partnership is still at its infancy, but Singapore’s Kingsley Tay and Mark Shen are ready and raring to make waves in the international arena.

Shen has been working the sands for six years while Tay is only in his third year playing beach volleyball. Tay donned the Singapore jersey at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games indoor volleyball competition, but found his career in limbo when the team disbanded after failing to qualify for the 2017 edition of the Games.

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5 years ago, I was given the opportunity to represent Singapore at the 2015 SEA Games.⁣⁣ Before 2015, the last time Singapore competed in SEA Games was in 1995. ⁣ ⁣ Prior to this very season, the men's national indoor vb team was pretty much non-existent. It's funny how playing beach volleyball have never crossed my mind. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Things have certainly changed. I'm fortunate to be able to witness and be a part of the progress of this sport in Singapore. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Not sure how much time I've left in the tank but I'm gonna embrace every opportunity given to me and keep the flag flying🇸🇬⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ #pallavolo #volleyball #beachvolley #beachvolleyball #sgfitfam #sgfitness #igsg #sglifestyle #singaporeinsiders #sgdaily #ig_singapore

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“The former national team coach asked if I’m keen on playing beach volleyball. At that time, Mark was actually partnered with my ex-teammate as well. They were already paired up while I was just starting my beach volleyball journey.

“I trained for two months and I think our ex-coach saw potential in our partnership so he decided to pair Mark and I up in the 2018 season. After few months of training, we started going for AVC competitions,” Tay said.

Apart from working on their podium dreams, Shen and Tay continue chasing their dreams while studying at National University of Singapore and Singapore University of Technology and Design, respectively. It is only fitting that their pursuit for gold started at the 2018 World University Beach Volleyball Championships in Munich, Germany.

After getting a feel of the international scene at the World University Championships, Shen and Tay started competing at the senior level in regional, AVC and FIVB events.

“It just happened that both of us were in university, so we paired up. We were kind of like new players and we had the opportunity to play against all the good teams that were internationally recognized, and I think we performed quite well for our first competition.

“We made some progression. When we first partnered, we didn’t have enough points, so we were usually placed in the qualifiers for the AVC events. We made it from the qualifiers to the main draw and then we started winning more games. The most recent competition we joined was the SEA Games in the Philippines,” said Shen.

With their connection getting stronger over time, Tay believes there is nowhere to go but to the podium before either of them decides to hang his jersey.

“I think our next biggest goal is to win a medal at the next Southeast Asian Games, and I think to actually represent Singapore at the Asian Games as well.

“Hopefully before Mark or I stop playing, I hope we can actually represent Singapore in these two competitions. They are very prestigious competitions in our country, and I think to be able to represent Singapore for those two would be an honour for our partnership,” the 26-year-old said.

Although their dreams have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no days off for the Singaporean duo. While the Tour is on an indefinite stop, Shen and Tay have been keeping each other in check and in condition while waiting for the whistle to sound once more.

“For the past few months we’ve been having online trainings hosted by our coach. Right now we’re back to training about five times a week. We’re just hoping other countries can open up so we can have competitions again,” Shen said.

“I think the trust is really important. I trust that Mark is making the best out of his time at home, and I think he trusts me to make the best of my time. That sort helped us cope with the situation,” said Tay.

For Shen and Tay, their slow return to normalcy would not be possible if not for the support given by the Volleyball Association of Singapore, which has been hands-on in helping them go back to the sands to prepare for competitions.

“I think our association did quite a good job this time to get us back on track because right now not a lot of sports can resume their training because the situation is not over yet, but I think they did a great initiative, coming up with measures to submit to the Olympic Council and to relevant health authorities to get us started on training,” Shen said.

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Maybe I’ll clutch for finals too

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If there is any advantage Shen and Tay have over others, they said it has got to be Singapore’s made-for-beach-volleyball weather.

“That’s actually a great advantage for us because we don’t need indoor facilities. The environment that we have is an advantage for us.

“I think many countries appreciate our conditions a lot. Countries like Chinese Taipei and Japan, even Malaysia, they come down to Singapore to really get used to the heat here before they go to competitions,” Tay said.

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