Winter Games 2018

Winter Olympics: A moment to savour for Cheyenne Goh

Cheyenne Goh training at the Goyang Eoullimnuri Ice Rink in preparation for her 1,500m race on Feb 17 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
Cheyenne Goh training at the Goyang Eoullimnuri Ice Rink in preparation for her 1,500m race on Feb 17 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SINGAPORE NATIONAL OLYMPIC COUNCIL

Family & friends will be rooting from rinkside ahead of Pyeongchang speed skating debut

Joanne Loh's daughter was always a fast starter. Even when she was two years old, she preferred running to walking, especially around the corners of the family's Housing Board flat in Pandan Gardens.

Sixteen years later, her daughter will again be rounding corners as fast as she can - this time not on the floor of an HDB flat in Singapore, but on an ice rink at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Loh will be watching at the Gangneung Ice Arena tomorrow as her daughter Cheyenne Goh, Singapore's first Winter Olympian, makes her speed skating debut in the heats of the short-track 1,500m event.

Goh, 18, will be cheered on by a group of 15 family members - including her parents and two brothers - and friends.

Loh, who has travelled to South Korea from Edmonton, Canada, where the family is based, told The Straits Times: "We just want the best for her and the most important thing is for her to be cool and calm.

"Nerves can get to any athlete, but she's always been pretty good with her nerves and let's hope she handles this competition well, too."

Goh's father Kien Hwee added that the family is proud of her, saying: "It is a very special opportunity and we're hoping that it'll be the first of many for her."

Goh, who moved into the athletes' village last Thursday and trained on the competition rink for the first time on Monday, used an appropriately wintry word to describe her experience: "Cool", she said.

The teenager has watched some of the short-track races, and said: "You always see the Olympic events on TV, but it's a definitely way cooler experience to be there and be a part of the atmosphere.

"Every time the Korean team makes a move, you just hear the crowd go wild and it's pretty cool."

She has been practising with the Korean team, which she admitted was "a bit intimidating, because they're all so fast".

National coach Chun Lee Kyung explained that Goh does not usually fall victim to nerves before a race as she "really enjoys racing all the time". Yet she acknowledged that tomorrow might be different due to the significance of the occasion.

"It's something she will have to learn to control on her own, but I will try my best to calm her down and help her relax before her race," said the four-time Olympic champion.

Asked how she intended to calm Goh down, Chun replied:

"Nagging.

"I'll just repeat myself and remind her to enjoy the race and not be afraid ... anything can happen during a short-track race."

The South Korean's other pieces of advice to her young charge include: Be aggressive, be confident and take the lead if and when there is a chance.

The field includes two-time 1,500m Olympic champion Zhou Yang of China and world-record holder Choi Min Jeong of South Korea, and Chun knows her charge has a slim chance of advancing past the heats.

But she stressed that that was not important, noting that the Pyeongchang Games could be a turning point for Goh.

Said Chun: "She's still young, she has potential and I think after these Olympics, a lot will change. Maybe she will realise how much harder she has to train, or become more serious about training... I'm very satisfied with her progress so far."

If Goh is searching for inspiration to go faster, she should listen to the story of what happened when she was three.

It is an incident that she has forgotten, but one that still draws chuckles from her mother when she recounts the tale.

Slated to be a flower girl for her mother's friend, Goh was dressed up for her role during the wedding rehearsal.

But instead of walking down the aisle, the three-year-old sprinted down it, shouting: "Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2018, with the headline 'A moment to savour for Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe