High flier Kyra aims for greater heights

Kyra Poh, 14, perfecting her indoor skydiving technique in the wind tunnel at iFly Singapore. She was introduced to the sport when she was only eight years old and began competing a year later.
Kyra Poh, 14, perfecting her indoor skydiving technique in the wind tunnel at iFly Singapore. She was introduced to the sport when she was only eight years old and began competing a year later.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Indoor skydiver Kyra Poh can float in the air - literally - and perform graceful twists and flips with the poise and ease of a seasoned ballerina or gymnast.

But, on land, the 14-year-old reveals she is anything but graceful.

The teenager, who won two golds and a silver at the Windoor Wind Games in Spain in February, tells The Straits Times she is so clumsy that she not only "spills and drops things" in her daily life, but she also trips and falls over her own feet while walking on flat ground.

Recalling how her clumsiness once led to badly bruised knees, she says: "While jogging with my dad I started to walk because I was tired, and I tripped over myself and fell on the pavement ... I was just walking."

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Kyra, who practises her flying in the wind tunnel that is 16.5 feet (5m) wide and 56.5 feet (17.2m) high at indoor skydiving facility iFly Singapore, admits flexibility is not her forte.

Grinning sheepishly, she says: "I've tried gymnastics before and I can't do it, which is very ironic because indoor skydiving is kind of like doing gymnastics in a wind tunnel."

Kyra also dabbled in other sports like golf and swimming, but stopped when she had her first experience with indoor skydiving when she was eight.

Why?

"I love it so much," she says.

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At the time, her mother, who works in advertising, had asked if she wanted to appear in a video for iFly Singapore, located in Sentosa.

Kyra then performed at iFly Singapore's opening ceremony in 2011 with her flying partner and fellow teenager Choo Yi Xuan, and began competing a year later.

The School of the Arts student talks animatedly about indoor skydiving.

"When I do my freestyle it's like gymnastics and ice skating, but when I go really fast it's like doing a sprint, so it's like a sport combining different aspects," says the former Haig Girls' School pupil, who used to represent her primary school and Singapore Swimming Club at swim meets.

"It looks smooth and easy but it's actually quite difficult. In the wind tunnel you don't have gravity to push you down, so when I train to do my splits I have to make sure I can do more because I can't use the ground to push me down."

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At the Feb 3-4 Wind Games, which featured almost 200 fliers from more than 18 countries, Kyra won golds in the solo freestyle category - where she was judged on criteria like rhythm and degree of difficulty - and the solo speed event, where she had to complete a routine in the fastest time possible.

She also won a gold medal at the indoor skydiving World Cup last October, and she hopes that more people will recognise indoor skydiving as a sport.

"When people ask me what sports I play, I say I fly and they don't take it very seriously or they think I'm joking, but after I explain how I actually do it, they'll be very interested," she adds.

"I want to be better and faster ... I love the sport for what it is, not for the fame, so I always have to keep on working harder and I can't stop here."

Kyra's next major competition is the Oct 18-23 Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Indoor Skydiving World Championship in Montreal, Canada.

She has been flying for five years, and reckons she will continue for many more years to come.

"What I always wanted to do was fly ... I'll probably still be flying until I die," said Kyra, who aspires to be a professional instructor.

"If I were to choose one superpower, it would be to fly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'High flier Kyra aims for greater heights'. Print Edition | Subscribe