Not many may remember this, but a biomechanist contributed to Joseph Schooling's 2016 Olympic win.
Although Schooling often finished poorly, compared with his idol Michael Phelps, Mr Ryan Hodierne, a biomechanist at Singapore Sports Institute, drew out the best in the Singaporean swimmer by using science to improve Schooling's technique.
From next year, students at selected schools will have a chance to learn about biomechanics and its role when the current physical education O-level subject is replaced.
A new Exercise and Sports Science subject will replace the O-level PE subject, and offer students a deeper insight into how the body works during exercise.
The new subject will look at various aspects of sports science, including sports psychology, the Ministry of Education (MOE) told The Straits Times. Students will also learn concepts behind movement and motor skills to perform physical activities, and how to find ways to improve performance.
19 SCHOOLS THAT WILL OFFER EXERCISE AND SPORTS SCIENCE AS O-LEVEL SUBJECT
Bedok Green Secondary School
Boon Lay Secondary School
Bowen Secondary School
Catholic High School
CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School
CHIJ St Theresa's Convent
Geylang Methodist School (Secondary)
Jurong West Secondary School
Maris Stella High School
North Vista Secondary School
Presbyterian High School
Seng Kang Secondary School
Singapore Sports School
Tanjong Katong Secondary School
Westwood Secondary School
Chong Boon Secondary School (Merging with Yio Chu Kang Secondary next year. The merged school will continue to offer the subject.)
Yuying Secondary School
Regent Secondary School
And yes, biomechanics will be included; it is not in the current O-level PE syllabus.
Students at selected schools, entering Secondary 3 next year, can opt for the subject. The ministry said the move is to offer students "more options that can engage their interests and strengths".
Currently, 18 schools, including Seng Kang Secondary and Catholic High School, offer PE as an O-level subject. Every year, about 300 students take the O-level subject, according to MOE. They can use their PE grade to apply for entry into post-secondary education institutions, just like for any other O-level subject. Over 30,000 students sat the O-level exams last year.
The current PE subject comprises about 60 per cent sports coursework and 40 per cent theory.
It is not easy to snag an A grade.
Consistency is key, said North Vista Secondary student Serena Sim, who has PE as one of her O-level subjects. "Besides revising theory concepts, we have to go out to practise for the practical aspect," noted the 15-year-old, who is in the school netball team and will be sitting the O levels this year.
At her school, the number of students taking PE at the O levels has jumped from 20 in the pioneer batch in 2009 to 80 Secondary 4 students this year. They have an extra three hours of PE classes weekly, on top of the two hours of lessons for all students.
North Vista students keen to pursue the PE subject undergo a trial at the end of Secondary 2. Their co-curricular activity (CCA) and National Physical Fitness Award test records, as well as feedback from PE teachers, are also taken into account.
They then spend the next two years training in a handful of sports, such as basketball, netball and badminton. They also have to grasp theories, such as training methods and sports in the media.
Mr Yon See Kian, head of department for PE and CCA at North Vista, said: "Sports skills take time to grasp. They have to keep pushing themselves."
The lessons are more advanced than regular PE classes and feature smaller class sizes.
Seng Kang Secondary has been offering the O-level PE subject since 2011. Its head of department for PE and CCA, Mr Louis Ho, said regular lessons focus generally on skills and knowledge about physical activity, and a healthy lifestyle.
Catholic High PE teacher Bernard Han said: "I would say O-level PE is one of the few subjects in secondary schools that offers a direct glimpse into a career in the sports industry."
Coaches here said the subject gives students keen in sporting careers a head start. Fencing coach Henry Koh said it can help produce a larger pool of individuals with expertise in sports.
Students are tested on various areas. For the practical component, for instance, their sports skills are assessed via videos. One skill they will pick up is analysing ways to boost physical performance. Like what Mr Hodierne did for Schooling.