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Motivating future Olympians at Singapore Sports School

Published on Aug 6, 2012 6:00 AM

The pinnacle of sporting excellence - the Olympics - might be a distant dream for any person but it's very much a reality at the Singapore Sports School.

The school boasts of four Olympians so far, the most notable being Singapore's swim queen Tao Li.

For the London 2012 games, eight athletes from the school were shortlisted by the Singapore National Olympic Council. Three - swimmers Tao Li and Mylene Ong and hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad - were selected.

The wheels were put in motion six years ago after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics here in Singapore.

The Dream 2012 Award, initiated by the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and endorsed by running great Lord Sebastian Coe, encourages its students to aspire to become Olympians. Since 2006, the annual award has supported 14 students and alumni to the tune of $91,000.

It's all part of the plan to motivate its students to aim for the stars, in this case, the Olympics.

The Singapore Sports School has taken an organic approach to inspiring its athletes during this period, said its sports psychologist, Dr Jaylee Longbottom in an interview with The Straits Times Online.

'Rather than providing formal workshop sessions, we've decided to put together Olympic-inspired music to be played during assembly. We've also put together images and video clips of past Olympic Games. This is to help athletes develop their own connections to the Olympic Dream,' she explained.

Dr Longbottom, 29, whose job entails equipping students with mental skills to enhance their performance, works with coaches to help athletes maximise their potential.

When faced with a discouraged athlete, she would try to find out what connected them to their chosen sport in the first place.

'We'll try to find out what they loved about their sport and bring it back into their training environment. Then we set some new goals. Often, these athletes have just lost sight of the bigger picture,' said Dr Longbottom, who hails from Australia.


During this Olympic period, students have easy access to television screenings broadcasting Olympic coverage throughout the sprawling 7ha campus.

Isotonic drink, 100 Plus - the school's hydration sponsor - is also available to students during training and after competition.

On July 19, the school also hosted an Olympic roadshow. Inspirational talks, including one with British swimming Olympian Mark Foster, were held to motivate students as part of its Lessons From Champions sports education programme.

These have spurred on junior swimmers Hoong Enqi, 13, and Constance Lien, 13.

'It really motivates us as we see how they conquer their fears during competitions,' said Enqi, who counts American swimmer Ryan Lochte as one of her favourite athletes.

'I didn't know who Lochte was at the last Olympics in Beijing. But he trained really hard after being motivated by Michael Phelps who won eight gold medals and broke quite a few records. For London, Lochte was probably training very hard and beat Phelps in the 400m IM.'

For Constance, her sporting hero comes closer from home in the form of local swimmer and Singapore Sports School graduate Mylene Ong.

'Mylene has never complained about training. She showed perseverance during training and qualifying for the London Olympics. And she's always very happy,' said the chirpy Secondary 1 student.

The school's director of sports Dr Irwin Seet said: 'The Olympics represent a dream. It's the greatest honour for an athlete to represent his or her country at the Olympics, so we want to inspire this generation of students to aim for the Olympics one day.'

'If you look at the stories of Mylene and Dipna, you might not have predicted six to seven years ago that they would be at the Olympics. But through resilience and perseverance, they have overcome many odds and stuck on to their dreams.

'They are now in London representing their country, so it's inspiring for kids who may not be overflowing with talent at this point of time, to keep working hard so that their day may come in the future.'