Rookies ready for SEA Games

01 Oct 2019

By Ignatius Koh, Colin Koh and Victoria Lee

They may not be familiar names just yet, but these SEA Games debutants are entering the regional tournament with panache. Among them are a chess woman’s Grandmaster, a multi-talented pentathlete and a gymnast aiming to put his injuries to bed.

The 2019 Southeast Asian Games will be held in the Philippines from 30 November to 11 December.

Quickfire checkmate

“I’ve been playing chess since I was seven and have competed in the Chess Olympiad, but the SEA Games will be the biggest stage for me. It will be a little more stressful as my performance will be compared to other sports this time.

My work as a chess teacher keeps me busy so I’m only participating in the rapid chess category. It gives me an advantage as I’m better under time pressure and can use my limited training time more effectively. My strength is in the middle game where I can create more chances for me to convert these advantages during the endgame.

Chess uses a lot of mental stamina so I’ve recently started running 5km three to five times a week to make sure I have enough energy during games.

People may think chess isn’t a sport because you only sit there and move pieces, but it’s a lot like boxing – just that you fight with your mind.” – Gong Qianyun, 34, Chess

Mind over matter

“It’s the first time in 20-odd years that Singapore’s volleyball team is competing on foreign soil. Our lack of experience and smaller size may hinder us, but volleyball is more than just physical ability – it’s also about mind games.

Even if we lose a point, we can’t vent our frustrations on the court because it’ll just fuel the opponents. You have to be calm and attentive to react as the ball moves at a 100 km per hour.

I may be inexperienced on the regional stage, but I will not waste this opportunity. With the community’s support, we can go far this year. I hope that the SEA Games will give players the belief that they can be competitive against other countries in the future.” – Ajay Singh Shergill, 20, Volleyball

Jill of all trades

“I started off as a shooter but got a bit stagnant, so I looked for something else to try. I don’t like sticking to just one sport, and consider myself a jack of all trades, so modern pentathlon was a challenge that I wanted to pick up.

Pentathletes compete in swimming, fencing, horse riding, followed by a combined shooting and running event. As I wasn’t a good swimmer, my federation enlisted a German coach to correct my techniques, which helped me improve tremendously.

Hopefully, more people will be aware that this sport exists, because for newcomers, it’s better to start young. I would like to see this sport continue growing, so the SEA Games is just the first of many steps.” — Shermaine Tung, 25, Modern Pentathlon

Return from injury hell

“You don’t see a big gymnast competing very often. It’s perfect if you’re lighter because there’s an optimum weight range for the apparatus.

As I’m pretty tall and heavy, my wrist endures a lot of stress whenever I swing on a pom and when I land, there’s a higher impact. These exertions cause my body joints to absorb a lot more impact than others, which results in many injuries.

My worst injury was a sprain in my wrist ligament. Mentally, it was tough as it kept me out of the game for so long. Even now, I’m still trying to be fully recovered. But my seniors and family helped me to overcome the uncertainties and self-doubt to return to training. My main focus is to get out there and perform at the SEA Games.” — Lincoln Forest Liqht Man, 19, Gymnastics

Disciplined rider

“My dad used to wakeboard and he encouraged me to pick up a board – that’s how it all began. When I first started out, I didn’t have a coach so I had to teach myself, and it was hard to learn tricks.

I always set a timetable for myself, and this has made me more disciplined. I also play competitive basketball for my school, which helps to improve my stamina. My teachers are also fully supportive of my wakeboarding journey, telling me to do my best no matter what.

I was shocked and happy to find out I was going to the SEA Games. People still treat me the same, but they’re prouder of me now because I’ve made it to this point.” — Clarence Batchelor, 16, Wakeboarding