Full-time stint in Korea pays off for national short-track speed skater Lucas Ng

Lucas Ng (front) training in Goyang with elite-level Korean skaters, such as 2014 Winter Olympics gold medallist Kong Sang Jeong (back).
Lucas Ng (front) training in Goyang with elite-level Korean skaters, such as 2014 Winter Olympics gold medallist Kong Sang Jeong (back).PHOTO: VIC SENT POK

In just 2 months of training, short track speed skater Ng has repeatedly shed personal bests

Having been based in South Korea since late October, top national short-track speed skater Lucas Ng has reaped immediate dividends.

The 28-year-old clocked five personal-best times over four International Skating Union World Cup legs in the last two months, and his rapid improvement has convinced him to make Goyang, a city 16km north of Seoul, his permanent base.

He said: "I know that if I stay in Singapore, I wouldn't be able to reach my best. Why should I settle for that if I know that I can actually achieve better times?

"I've always told myself, 'If I have not reached the point where I'm at my best, then it would be a waste'."

Singapore Ice Skating Association president Sonja Chong is supportive of the move, saying: "He has been on the road travelling and will now stay in Korea so that he can get more consistent ice sessions which we hope will help him to continue to achieve personal-bests."

Ng added that he hopes to train in his new home base indefinitely.

NO POINT STAYING HOME

I know that if I stay in Singapore, I wouldn't be able to reach my best. Why should I settle for that if I know that I can actually achieve better times?

LUCAS NG, speed skater, on his decision to be based in the South Korean city of Goyang.

Since choosing to become a full- time athlete, he has benefited from polishing his technique in a better training facility, with more ice-time and stronger training companions.

He trains three times a day - twice on ice and once off ice - for six days a week at the Goyang Eoullimnuri Arts Centre, a sprawling complex which houses a swimming pool, a gymnasium and two ice-skating rinks.

In Singapore, Ng, who was a part-time skating coach, used to get on the ice only twice a week at The Rink at JCube, Singapore's only Olympic-sized ice rink, as its available time slots are shared by figure skaters, ice hockey teams as well as public users.

He said: "I feel that I am faster now, and I think it's because I'm spending more time on the ice here, which gives me a greater feel of the surface.

"This has enabled me to learn how to race better.

"For example, I can conquer the turns at a high speed better now, because I've been trying that technique everyday which gives me greater confidence during competitions."

On the better ice conditions in Korea, Ng added: "It is smoother, therefore you are able to reach a higher speed with less friction."

Besides the longer hours he spends at the rink, he has also benefited from training with a group of elite-level Korean skaters, including Kong Sang Jeong, who won a women's 3,000m relay gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Said Ng, who is the only non-Korean among a group of 30 skaters: "I'm training with skaters who have more than 10 years of professional experience. So I can learn and follow their skating styles and techniques and I could chase them when they do faster laps.

"I have to raise the bar for myself. Every session, I have improved a little bit. There has not been one time when I feel that I'm stagnant here, so I think it's really worth it to be here."

While Ng has been shaving his times, he admits that qualifying for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be a tough feat.

His immediate focus will be February's Asian Winter Games in Sapporo and the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.

And Ng is expecting more personal bests, saying: "I just keep believing that if I train hard, I will keep improving."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Full-time stint in Korea pays off'. Print Edition | Subscribe