The YOG trail blazers 10 years on: what’s happened to them since?

19 Aug 2020

By Randy Ng

The inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) placed Singapore on the world stage in 2010. We celebrate the 10th anniversary by catching up with five YOG participants.

Guardian of the flame

Singaporean torchbearer Silas Abdul Razak (L) lights the torch from torchbearer Amanda Lim during the flame lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia, Greece. Photo: SYOGOC

Amanda Lim, 27, swimmer

“I had the honour of bringing the Olympic flame to Singapore from Greece. In Athens, I witnessed the ancient Greek ritual of igniting the Olympic flame using the sun’s natural heat. The flame was kept in a fire-lamp box and the security personnel had to take turns holding it throughout the long plane ride. We literally guarded it with our lives!

At the Games, I managed to race with swimmers around my age who were so much faster than me. I looked up to them as idols, which motivated me to train harder. In the 50-metre freestyle, I competed against Cate Campbell, an Australian swimmer who is now an Olympic champion and a world record holder. Since then, I’ve been watching her races, observing her technique, and reading news about her online. It’s great motivation to get faster in swimming.”


On a par with the best

Brandon Ooi, 26, kayaker

“I was excited for the YOG as I wanted to test myself against the world’s best. At the Games, I placed 7th position in the slalom category and 10th in the sprints category. To me, these were big achievements – I raced against people who were widely regarded as the best, and found that there was not much difference between us. It gave me the confidence to keep going and do better.

In just a decade, canoeing and kayaking have grown really popular in Singapore. We have also achieved much since by winning medals in the Southeast Asian Games. The YOG started this ball rolling when many Singaporeans noticed that we could do well in more sports apart from the traditional ones like swimming, sailing and table tennis. We were able to transition from a sport where we had to pay for everything ourselves, to one that even boasts a kids development programme today. The infrastructure for the younger generation is coming up very nicely.”


Fuelled by willpower

Alan Chen, 37, YOG 2010 volunteer manager          

“During the YOG, we had meetings from morning to evening. We needed to liaise with various venue managers, propose workforce and venue readiness plans, manage staffing and perform many other tasks. At night, we needed to find ways to engage YOG volunteers through email, SMS, or phone calls as we didn’t have messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp back then.

It was an entirely new event, and we had no past experiences to draw from. Sometimes it got stressful because of the tight deadlines. But we did whatever it took to meet targets and organise the games. It was certainly good training for my career as a volunteer manager!

This taught me that nothing is impossible – it really depended on our own determination, willpower, and belief. Even though it’s been 10 years, I still feel really proud and honoured to have been a part of the YOG.”


Volunteering is a privilege

Michael (centre) continues to be very active with volunteering today. Photo: Michael Lee

Michael Lee, 62, YOG 2010 volunteer

“As a volunteer supervisor for the football matches held at Jalan Besar Stadium, I led a team to manage the crowd, ensure orderliness and report any breaches in security.

It bolstered my leadership skills as I had to make quick decisions when things did not go as planned. There were times when we had to work with half our volunteer strength and whenever some of them felt disheartened, I always reminded them: “volunteer not because you have to, but because you get to”. It was a privilege to shape the mindset of the younger generation.

Personally, sports has always been my passion, and the YOG was a stepping stone for me. I have been an active member of Team Nila since, volunteering in the 2015 SEA Games and ASEAN Paralympic Games. I’ve gone overseas to support the team at the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games. These opportunities wouldn’t have happened without the YOG.”


A steep learning curve

Ng Jing Hui, 33, YOG 2010 Sports Training senior executive

“The journey preparing for YOG and executing it has been the best two years of my career so far. As the main point of contact for coordinating training schedules, venues and transportation, I worked closely with individual sports competition managers, Organising Committee’s functional areas and International Sports Federations.

There were so many moving pieces that no matter how prepared you were, something unexpected always arose. For instance, we would be caught off guard with last minute requests, which required us to quickly gather manpower, make certain adjustments. I learnt how to think on my feet, and to be more efficient in dealing with problems on the ground.

Learning to deal with such high pressure situations has since given me an advantage in the sports industry. It helped me to understand the different perspectives of team managers, athletes and coaches and come to a common ground with their expectations and demands. I am able to see the big picture of organising a multisport event, which has helped in my present job as a High Performance Manager of the Singapore Canoe Federation, especially when I am tasked to organise events and lead athletes and coaches for competitions.”