The fight of the young

01 Jul 2019

They may be in their teens, but are already prepared to sacrifice for sporting success. These young recipients of this year’s Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship overcame a congenital heart condition, lack of experience and fear of the unknown to discover fighting spirit.

The 2019 edition of the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship will take place on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.

By Jasmine Tan and Joel Chew

Winds and Sails

Sarah Yong Rui-En, 11, Sailing

“At first, I had to sit in my coach’s boat because I was too young to sail. I did not have the physical strength to control the direction as the total weight of the boat and sail weighed more than me. I struggled a lot when the wind was strong due to my light weight and small stature.

Sailing is also mentally challenging. Especially since I could be waiting alone on my boat out at sea for hours. Luckily, I have my two best friends out on the water with me. Chatting with them helps calm my nerves.

During the Fish & Co. Youth Sailing Championship 2016 – one of my first national competitions –I won a novice bronze medal for the 8 years and under category. It was a surprising result because I was very disappointed in my performance on the last day. Luckily, my first two days’ performance pulled my points up.

Sometimes, I get very affected by bad results in races. My mother has taught me that I shouldn’t dwell on bad results in races because the next one will be better.”

Fight Song

Raif Muhamad Syariz Bin Muhamad Rizal, 11, Silat

“Silat helps me connect with my culture. My grandfather used to do Silat too. I train with the support of my parents. After training, I will watch playbacks of my matches together with my mother to improve. My father helps hold the punching bag so I can practice my kicks.

During fasting month, I am able to train at home thanks to the scholarship funding which allowed me to buy a punching bag and protective gear.

When I go overseas for competitions, it is very difficult to focus. I have to deal with the time difference, foreign judges and uncomfortable mats. Listening to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” before a match calms me down. I also observe the competitors before me. I try to find weaknesses and change my technique if needed.”

Gritty Goalkeeper

Muhammad’ Rauf Bin Mohamed Erwan, 13, Football

“My favourite football player is Buffon, a goalkeeper with Paris Saint-Germain. When I watch him play, I learn a different technique of saving the ball, like how he focuses on the ball instead of the strikers’ legs.

Being a keeper is tough. I must communicate and direct the team’s movements because only I have full court vision. Also, I have to save the rebound ball within 2 seconds, which requires a fast reaction time. But that’s something which I’m good at – I’m not afraid to dive for balls. That’s why I started playing the game as an outfield player but the Football Association of Singapore coach switched me to this position. He noticed I could read the movement of the ball and I was brave in diving.

I train every Saturday, but I will do it more often when I enroll in Singapore Sports School next year. My goal is to perform well in the 2020 selection trials, and progress to the national team. It will be difficult, but my coach said that it is possible if I press on.”

Track Underdog

Thaarani D/O Sivakumar, 14, Athletics 

“During the National School Games last year, I did not expect to qualify for the 200m sprint event. It was my first time representing my school in a national competition so no one knew how I would perform. My teammates told me I couldn’t beat the other competitors because they were too fast. But I came in first!

Everyone was surprised because I managed a personal best timing of 26.96 seconds, when my normal timing was around 28 seconds. While competing, I only focused on hitting my target of 27 seconds rather than getting a medal. The result told me that I could do it. I’m most thankful to my coach for believing in me. Even when I doubted myself and my abilities, he never wavered. By setting a new goal for me at each competition, he helped me reach levels I never knew I could.”

Speed Skater

Xu Jing Feng, 16, Ice Skating

“I was born with a congenital heart condition as a child. To strengthen myself, both physically and mentally, I got into the sport. Ice skating helped build up my resilience and discipline; skills which were useful for my studies too. Even though I’m also in my school’s basketball team, I must say that skating is my first love. The adrenaline on ice is fantastic.

There is a very small group of skaters in Singapore. This is because there is limited chances to get on ice. We only have two ice sessions a week compared to overseas training which has two a day! I want to gain more experience and learn from other skaters. Hopefully, I can help develop the sport further in Singapore.”