Not merely team-mates: Athletes with family ties

There is no denying that Singapore will enjoy home advantage at these SEA Games but some of the team have taken it further. There are more than 20 sets of athletes with family ties - from siblings to cousins to parents and children - who will fly the Republic's flag. Isaac Neo profiles them

WATERSKI AND WAKEBOARD

  • Sisters Kalya, 19, and Sabelle Kee, 16

Their parents, May Lwin-Kee and Geoffrey Kee, are former SEA Games water-skiers. This is Sabelle's first SEA Games and Kalya's second.

Kalya: "At the last SEA Games, my father took care of me, but now I have to take care of my younger sister. It's both exciting and nerve-wracking. Sabelle tends to get anxious and nervous, so I encourage her by sharing my experience at the previous SEA Games with her, and by telling her to focus on one thing at a time."

EQUESTRIAN

  • Sisters Caroline, 23, and Catherine Chew, 26

Daughters of Melanie Chew, president of Equestrian Federation of Singapore

Caroline: “She’s got a brilliant work ethic – first to arrive, last to leave, but she has shown up at a competition without vital gear. I think I overcompensate, I have two of everything as a result and that helps.”

Catherine: “We always bunk together in the same room. It’s a bit terrible because we talk too much into the night.”

DIVING

  • Twin brothers Mark and Timothy Lee, 20

How do you tell them apart? Timothy has a mark on his face, Mark does not.

Mark: “Timothy and I treat each other as pillars of strength. Going through eight hours of training daily can make you go crazy and burn out really quickly. That’s where Timothy comes into the picture as a form of encouragement and support.”

HOCKEY

  • Cousins Tan Yi Ru, 25, and Toh Limin, 26

They started playing as kids and were part of the Under-12 squad. Tan coaches the Jansenites hockey club with Toh, and will now be participating in his first SEA Games.

Toh: “There was this young girl who was a fan of Yi Ru and when she found out that I was his cousin, she started asking me things about him and even to help her ask for a photo of them together. It was really cute and hilarious!”

  • Brothers Jaspal, 21 and Ishwarpal Singh, 22

Dubbed the “twin towers” because of their height (Ishwarpal is 1.93m tall while Jaspal is 1.83m) and similar playing position, the brothers will be participating in their first Games together.

Jaspal: “Ish is usually the joker, especially in the changing rooms, but I tend to be more laid-back and serious.”

BOWLING

  • Bernice, 24, and Justin Lim, 22

The siblings started bowling at the same time, when Bernice was 11 and Justin, nine. They have gone on several tournaments together, such as the Asian Bowling Championships in Thailand in January.

Bernice: “We started out bowling leisurely as a family and it was a lot of fun being able to bond weekly over such activities. There isn’t much sibling rivalry as we play on different teams.”

  • Brothers Howard, 22, and Keith Saw, 20

They have trained together since the start – from Anderson Primary to the Singapore Sports School and then the national team.

Keith: “It is great. because I will always have a sparring partner. We improved at different rates and at different times but ultimately, we improved together.”

Howard: “It is good that we have a healthy bit of rivalry because it motivates us to work harder.”

  • Sisters Cherie, 27, and Daphne Tan, 25

Cherie started bowling when she was 12 and Daphne when she was 10. They have bowled together at several tournaments, winning team golds at the 2011 SEA Games and again at the 2014 Asian Games.

Cherie: “There is sibling rivalry, but we are happy for each other when we do well. It is awesome to be able to bowl together, travel together, share the same experiences, which bond us closer.”

BADMINTON

  • Siblings Hendra Wijaya, 29, and Shinta Mulia Sari, 26

Born in Indonesia, Hendra and Shinta hail from a family of nine siblings, all of whom play badminton. Their parents are badminton coaches.

Shinta says that they picked up badminton owing to sibling influence and there is “no sibling rivalry”.

FENCING

  • Sisters Cheryl, 24, and Liane Wong, 21

They started at the same time, when Liane was six and Cheryl nine, when they saw their older brother fencing.

Cheryl: “She’s one of the most annoying people to fence with. I lose my cool sometimes.”

Liane: “Yes I take joy in infuriating her when we’re fencing, but once we’re off the strip, it’s all good!”

ARCHERY

  • Mother and son Low Luan Eng, 45, and Ang Han Teng, 23

Low was not even supposed to be in the national squad, but went for a trial after the Archery Association encouraged her to, which she topped.

Low: “When I first joined the squad, all the archers asked me, ‘Auntie, what should I call you? Auntie or Jocelyn’?”

Ang: “When we’re training, I’m bigger than her. But at home, she’s the authority.”

SWIMMING

  • Siblings Quah Jing Wen, 14, Zheng Wen, 18 and Ting Wen, 22

The trio will take part in their first SEA Games together with Jing Wen making her debut. Zheng Wen first competed in 2011 and Ting Wen in 2005.

Zheng Wen: “Previously I was on my own in competitions, because (Ting Wen) was studying in the States.

“But recently we managed to go for the 2013 SEA Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games together, and it’s really different and nice to have somebody who would support you through thick and thin there.

“I’m glad Jing Wen is here, and that we are here for her. I’m really proud of her, it’s good to see her efforts pay off.”

SILAT

  • Sisters Nurul Suhaila Saiful, 20, and Nurul Shafiqah Saiful, 21

The fair-skinned sisters, dubbed the “white twins” owing to their mixed heritage, have done almost everything together, and these SEA Games will be their first together.

Suhaila: “We tie one another’s hair before matches, but we have also suffered bruises and scratches from one another during training.”

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