Olympic parents no spent force

May Schooling (left) and family members of sailors Colin Cheng, Griselda Khng and Sara Tan (above) will be in Rio to support their children at the pinnacle of their sporting careers.
May Schooling and family members of sailors Colin Cheng, Griselda Khng and Sara Tan (above) will be in Rio to support their children at the pinnacle of their sporting careers.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
May Schooling (left) and family members of sailors Colin Cheng, Griselda Khng and Sara Tan (above) will be in Rio to support their children at the pinnacle of their sporting careers.
May Schooling. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Despite high costs of travel and lodging, families of some local athletes make the journey to Rio

May Schooling was not in Glasgow when son Joseph won Singapore's first Commonwealth Games swimming medal, a 100m butterfly silver, in 2014.

Neither was she in Kazan, Russia, where he won a bronze, a first-ever medal for the Republic at the World Championships, a year later.

But there is no chance she will miss out on his swim at the Olympics next month, even if the build-up to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has been fraught with negativity - from the Zika virus to infrastructure delays to the alarming crime rate.

"We missed Glasgow and Kazan because we couldn't get accommodation and tickets at a reasonable price. But whenever possible we try to be there for him. The Olympics are the pinnacle of sports and I am very blessed that I can support him in Rio," said May.

"For me it is always exciting to watch Joseph and to cheer him on. I love every moment that I can do that, even if I lose my voice cheering, or feel like I'm having a heart attack when it is a close race.

"We support each other through thick and thin.".

  • $10,000

  • The amount that Griselda Khng's parents have spent, in exchange for the chance to cheer on their daughter from the sidelines of the Rio Games.

May belongs to a band of parents who are embarking on the risky road to Rio - all to watch their children compete on sport's grandest stage.

Long-haul flight aside - the whole trip will take about 30 hours - the travelling contingent also has to contend with soaring hotel room prices.

Room rates have reportedly tripled for the duration of the Games, while apartments on home rental service Airbnb cost on average $294 per night, about the same as a four-star hotel in Singapore.

Sharon Khng, whose daughter Griselda will make her Olympic debut next month, said airfare and accommodation alone costs around $10,000.

But, with Griselda spending the bulk of the last three years abroad on the qualifying trail, Sharon said: "She sacrificed a lot to qualify for the Olympics. It's her biggest tournament so it's very important for us to be there to support her."

Fittingly, the Khngs will be sharing an apartment with Lim Yee Kheng, whose daughter Sara Tan is Griselda's partner in the 49er FX.

Also making the trek to the competition venue at the Marina da Gloria sailing club are Christopher and Brenda Cheng, parents of sailor Colin.

Christopher said: "It's more than just supporting our son. We want to support (chef de mission and former SingaporeSailing chief Low) Teo Ping, his team-mates, it's an entire village which embodies the team spirit in sailing."

Colin said: "It's not so much the motivation, but when I switch off after a race, it's good to know they are there and that I can contact them easily."

Four years ago, Colin joked that eating his mother's curry helped him finish 15th out of 49 in the men's Laser at the London Games, Singapore's best performance in sailing at the Olympics.

This time, he quipped: "Who knows, maybe there'll be a similar curry chicken story?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Olympic parents no spent force'. Print Edition | Subscribe