Gruelling schedule basis for St Nicholas' success

Rhythmic gymnasts Gayle Chee, 16, (left) and Megan Arty Prem, 15, from St Nicholas Girls' School, say ballet and dance formed the basis of their B Division success at the National School Games.
Rhythmic gymnasts Gayle Chee, 16, (left) and Megan Arty Prem, 15, from St Nicholas Girls' School, say ballet and dance formed the basis of their B Division success at the National School Games.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

An average rhythmic gymnastics routine is only 90 seconds long.

But to achieve 90 seconds of perfection, it takes months of gruelling work and intensive training.

Not only did the gymnasts of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School achieve that, but they also did so by juggling training sessions four times a week and preparing for the mid-year examinations.

It was all worth it in the end as the team claimed the B Division title at the National School Games rhythmic gymnastics championships - their first in 11 years. That broke Raffles Girls' School's (RGS') stranglehold on the crown from 2005 to 2015.

One factor in St Nicholas' success was the students' cross-discipline training. The flexible and fluid moves of dance and ballet have been key in helping them polish their gymnastics routines.

Captain Gayle Chee, 16, revealed: "Many people take up dance before they even join rhythmic gymnastics. When they come to know of it, ballet and dance become a supplement to our training.

"Even though we have to use apparatus during gymnastics, ballet and dance build up your foundation, which is really crucial."

One such student was vice-captain Megan Arty Prem, 15, who took up ballet in order to help her gymnastics.

"On Monday after CCA, Tuesdays and Thursdays I go for ballet, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I go for contemporary dance class. Sundays are for tuition," she said.

Despite their success, St Nicholas were not without their low points, finishing fourth in the group event.

"The group was formed last year and we've trained really hard since then. But seeing as how we still won the overall champions' title, we are less disappointed," said Gayle.

Their individual scores played an important part in winning the title.

The final score partly consists of the sum of the best two scores from individual routines. St Nicholas' combined score of 21.701, from Megan's third place in the clubs and fourth place in the hoop, helped them defeat RGS by two points.

"It's been years since we've won, so that alone is quite an achievement," said Megan.

Despite the challenges, their love for the sport motivates the girls.

Said Gayle: "My favourite part is performing the routine. During that moment, all eyes are on you. That is when you can shine and show everyone what you can do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Gruelling schedule basis for St Nicholas' success'. Print Edition | Subscribe