Winter sports: 17-Gold haul cuts no ice with Chun

National short-track speed skating coach wants charges to improve stamina and speed

Danielle Han returns from injury to compete at the MapleZ South-east Asian Short Track Trophy.
Danielle Han returns from injury to compete at the MapleZ South-east Asian Short Track Trophy.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore topped the medal standings with 17 golds out of 44 at the MapleZ South-east Asian Short Track Trophy last weekend but national short-track speed skating coach Chun Lee Kyung was still a tad disappointed with the team's performance.

The South Korean said: "I'm not satisfied with their performance in this competition. They did well in practice but they did not perform well during the competition.

"In my opinion, the other countries are catching up with us very quickly. We need to improve more, especially in the relays."

Yesterday, Singapore's men's 3,000m relay quartet of Lucas Ng, Lim Jun Hao, Miki Chong and Chua Qi En suffered a crash during the race. The team clocked 4min 59.600sec to finish second behind Indonesia (4:51.940).

Getting the team together has been a challenge with Ng, 28, training full time in South Korea, while Chong, 23, has just returned from injury after more than a year.

When asked what needs to be improved ahead of August's SEA Games, Chun, a four-time Olympic gold medallist and triple world champion, noted: "Lucas is training in Korea, but I need to help bring up the speed of the other three members.

"Stamina training has to come first, followed by speed training."

One skater who earned Chun's praise was Danielle Han.

Chun added: "Danielle has not recovered fully from an injury. But the most important thing is that she has regained her confidence. So, she must not be afraid when she skates on the ice at a high speed."

The last time Han competed on ice - at the Singapore National Championships last August - she had to be stretchered off the rink following a crash.

She tore her right ankle ligament and even though she resumed training four weeks later, the trauma of that accident stuck with her every time she entered the rink.

Said Han, 26, who started as a figure skater when she was 11 but switched to speed-skating in 2012: "After that fall, I lost my confidence on the ice. For instance, each time when I would trip a little bit while skating, I would have a mental flashback of what happened.

"It was hard to climb back up again. Even during training sessions, I approached it rather half-heartedly because I was training at half-load compared to my team-mates. I didn't know how much I could push myself, because I didn't dare to push."

But returning last weekend to The Rink at JCube, Han vanquished her demons.

She clocked 2:05.690 in the 1,000m final, ahead of compatriot Suvian Tan (2:05.807). On Saturday, she registered 3:22.098 in the 1,500m and 57.407sec in the 500m.

She said: "The times are still far off (a few seconds) where I would like to be technically, but at least now I know that I have moved on from the trauma of that accident."

As one of the top female national skaters, Han is hoping to qualify for August's SEA Games, where winter sports such as ice-skating and ice hockey will be making their debuts.

To prepare for that competition, Han, a Sport Singapore executive, intends to return to Korea to train full-time after March.

She had also quit her job last June to train for two months at the Goyang Eoullimnuri Arts Centre, where Ng is based.

Ng completed a clean sweep of individual titles yesterday by winning the 1,000m race.

He clocked 2:01.374 to edge out his closest rival Wong De-Vin of Malaysia (2:01.653).

Han, who trains with the national team six days a week, said: "We know that other competitors are also training overseas while preparing for the SEA Games. So every day that I am not doing that, I am falling behind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline '17-Gold haul cuts no ice with Chun'. Subscribe