Netball stars Soh and Lin receive glittering surprise

Moments after Singapore netball players Charmaine Soh and Micky Lin walked into the Caraters Diamonds store at UE Square yesterday, they screamed so loud it startled shoppers all over the mall.

Following the netball team’s historic gold medal feat at the recent South-east Asia (SEA) Games, Caraters Diamonds decided to surprise the duo with a pair of specially crafted one-carat diamond earrings, worth $5,000 each.

"It definitely caught us off guard," said the team captain Lim. "We were told (by Netball Singapore) that we were meeting potential sponsors, but didn’t know who. The surprise really worked."

According to diamond retailer Caraters chief executive officer James Syddall, the excited girls didn’t want to take the earrings off once they put it on.

The diamond sports earrings, designed to resemble a ball in a hoop, took an average of 420 hours to hand-craft.

Besides the earrings, both netballers also received a cash reward of $500 each.

Syddall, 44, a Singaporean who runs two diamond and jewelry stores – the other is Syddall Diamonds – said the gesture was meant to commemorate the efforts of the Singapore netball team, who wowed fans during the Games earlier this month.

The team followed up by their Asian title triumph last year by winning the country’s first netball gold when they defeated arch-rivals Malaysia in the final.

Soh and Lin were two players who caught Syddall’s eye during the tournament.

"You don’t want to just give a female athlete a pair of headphones or shoes – they’re still girls after all," Syddall said.

"I was really impressed with the way they played and fought against bigger opponents.

"Netball tends to get overshadowed by the other sports like swimming, football and table tennis. But almost every girl plays netball at some point. It’s a very understated game, and not many sponsors are willing to invest in it."

Syddall plans to get both his brands more involved in netball in the future.

"I would definitely consider (giving) individual sponsorships to some of the players," he added. "But I will let Netball Singapore decide on that; they have already discussed a few ideas with me. This (gesture) was something which I stumbled upon. Some of my staff had worked with Charmaine and Micky before and they told me about them."

"As far as netball is concerned, I want to contribute as much as possible. After this gold medal, the sport could grow to be one of the main sports in Singapore."

While the diamond earrings are as big a gift as she’s ever received, Lin, 29, said it’s the support and encouragement from Singaporeans that she appreciates the most.

"Since the SEA Games, lots of people have been coming up to congratulate us," she said. "Whether it’s a $5 mean or a $5,000 diamonds, we appreciate the gesture.

"As for the earrings, I don’t usually wear too much jewelry –because I tend to lose stuff. I’ll be keeping these in a safe so I won’t lose them."

Report by Ali Kasim

aaskasim@sph.com.sg