Team Singapore athletes perfect their act

AS A synchronised swimmer, Melissa Khor is used to moving gracefully through the water. But the 20-year-old has spent the last few months practising outside her natural element - on dry land.

She is one of more than 250 athletes who will be showcasing their various sports at the National Day Parade for the first time.

For instance, the 40-strong Singapore synchronised swimming team will be showing a move called the ballet leg, which involves lying on the ground with one leg up.

For Melissa, dancing on land has proved to be more difficult than doing so in the water.

"When our arms are out of the water, our legs are in it, so we don't have to coordinate as much to look good," said Melissa, who is the team captain. She added that it was also harder to watch and keep up with her teammates, given that she is used to working in smaller groups of eight.

The team has been practising for the NDP about once a week since April, but training has been stepped up to twice a week recently. Melissa, who will be going to Barcelona for the World Championships next week, said that most of her team agreed to perform at the NDP, despite having to train for competitions and school.

"We don't get much exposure as a sport, this is one way for Singaporeans to see what synchronised swimming is about," said Melissa, who is a student at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Dentistry.

Other athletes who will be performing in the segment called Represent include the Team Singapore paddlers, gymnasts and footballers, and others who are not on the national teams.

Mr Palanisamy Avaday, 62, from the Wheelchair Basketball Association, said that even though the stage is twice the size of a regular basketball court, the routine, which includes passing balls to his teammates, is easy.

"I've played with them for many years now, we really trust each other."

NDP chief choreographer Patrick Loo said directing the athletes was "difficult" initially, as they were "out of their comfort zone and had to move to music and lights".

But he said that they are getting the hang of it.

"Like all things if you want perfection, you need time," said Mr Loo. "I believe practice makes perfect."

STACEY CHIA