Of elephants, corridors and survival

Five recipients of this year’s Singapore Olympic Foundation–Peter Lim Scholarship share their young sporting journeys, from learning how to lose, to straining for success.

The 2019 edition of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship will be held on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.

By Ignatius Koh and Joel Chew

Mascot Mojo

Mikkel Lee

Mikkel Lee Jun Jie, 16, Swimming

“When I competed at the ASEAN School Games for the first time in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had only one thing on my mind – the cute elephant mascot. But you would get it only if you win a medal, and I had only one race. The elephant was the only thing on my mind when I started the race. I was in Secondary 2 and I was the youngest in the race. I was not the fastest and was unlikely to win. But I wanted the mascot so badly, so I told myself that if you really want it, you can achieve it.

The feeling of standing on the podium with a bronze medal and the mascot was indescribable. That was three years ago and it inspired me to go back, train hard and dream bigger. It paid off and I won four golds and one silver each time I competed in the next two ASEAN School Games.”

Corridor Runner

Nicholas Rachmadi, 17, Triathlon

“I wanted to switch from swimming to triathlon about three years ago but no one really believed I could run. The track team also had faster runners and limited spots. I wanted to prove them wrong and so I began running along corridors in school. My runs could go up to 10km and people in school started to call me the “Corridor Runner”! After three months, I beat three out of the four cross-country runners from my school at the national cross country championships in 2017. Now, I’m a triathlete and I’ve won my nomination slot for this year’s SEA Games.”

Survival Kid

Diyanah Muzfirrah Binte Azman, 20, Football

“I was only 10 years old when my dad lost his job due to his partial blindness caused by diabetes. We had to find other ways to support ourselves. As a primary school kid then, all I could think about was ‘how is my family going to get money?’. From then on, I told myself to work hard in my studies and give my very best in sports.

I went for extra training sessions with my friends, on top of school training to improve myself because there were better players who were younger, and I made sure to finish the compulsory daily journals from school – this helped me to stay disciplined. Over the years, I also applied for bursaries, and learnt that it was more important to spend on my needs rather than my wants. Each time I felt like giving up on my studies, I would think about my family. I want to repay my parents’ hard work.”

Maiden Win

Lee Pei Shan, 19, Netball

“When I first qualified for the national youth team, it was quite a shock. I had to train four to five times a week, up from twice a week, and juggle all that extra training with my studies. But the intense training paid off when we won the 2017 U21 Asian Youth Netball Championships in South Korea for the first time. This was a surprise because we had lost to tough opponents such as Sri Lanka and Malaysia in our previous encounters. We were down by five points in the first quarter against the Sri Lankan team, and then my coach decided to change the team’s shooting strategy by substituting me into the Goal Shooter position.

Fortunately, I was able to hold the defender well with my sturdy build and create space for a good position to take my shots, allowing us to eventually take the lead. No matter how tough the fight may be, it is crucial to remain optimistic and maintain composure on court. To all aspiring athletes, try to discover where your strengths lie, no matter how difficult the journey. Manage your time wisely. And practise. Practice makes perfect.”

Learning to Lose

Danielle Lim, 20, Wrestling

“My journey to becoming a wrestling athlete was entirely coincidental. I was observing the Republic Polytechnic wrestling team as part of a practicum for my sports coaching diploma, when the coach recommended that I train with them after finding out that I had defeated a stronger and more experienced opponent at a friendly competition. After some training, he recommended me to trial with the Wrestling Federation of Singapore, through which I qualified for the national team.

Since then, my most memorable experience was at the 2019 Philippines Open, where I had to wrestle with an opponent 7kg heavier than me. Although I eventually lost the match by a few points, I realised later that it was not entirely impossible to defeat her. That tournament boosted my confidence – especially when I was competing following a long rehabilitation period from surgery due to an ACL tear on my left knee. Before that, winning was all that mattered. Now, I have learnt to lose.”