SINGAPORE – Training at an empty track when her schoolmates are home and missing Chinese New Year reunions for the last four years.
These are just some of the sacrifices that Singaporean athlete Tia Rozario has had to make since moving to New Jersey, United States, in 2019 to study and compete.
While it has been filled with challenges, the 22-year-old is set to end her sojourn on a high.
The Princeton University student rewrote her national outdoor triple jump record on Friday as she leapt 12.80m to finish third at the Raleigh Relays at the Paul Derr Track and Field Facility in North Carolina.
Her teammate Alexandra Kelly (12.84m) won the meet via a tiebreak, ahead of North Carolina State University’s Jirah Sidberry.
Rozario’s previous outdoor record of 12.54m was set in 2021 at The College of New Jersey Lions Last Chance Meet.
This is also the second time she has bettered a national record in 2023. In February, she broke her national indoor triple jump mark and won the Yale Giegengack Invitational at Yale University with her 12.67m attempt.
Rozario, who is studying neuroscience at Princeton and will graduate in May, said: “I am very thankful for this latest record and for how the year has gone. I really want to end my four years here on a good note. It has been a long journey, but I am excited to be able to see the results showing lately.
“To come here to train and compete has always been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”
While in the US, she has had to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic which led her to being stuck in New Jersey, training under strict safety guidelines. These included keeping her mask on at all times – even during training.
Home sickness has also been tough to deal with.
Rozario said: “Being here for the past few years, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices. Even for my parents, I know that it is not easy for them to send their daughter to another country at this age. I want to do them proud.
“I don’t get to see my family as often as I want to. I miss them. I have not been back for Chinese New Year since I moved here.
“Even when I have summer or winter breaks, I have not been always able to go back home because the flights can be very expensive.
“I have been in campus during breaks when it is totally empty as everyone has gone back home to spend time with their family and there I am just training in the shadows. It’s tough.”
But with every meet bringing an improvement these days, Rozario is determined to meet her goal for the year – hitting the 13m mark.
She also wants to make it to the SEA Games one day, although she has yet to meet the qualifying mark of 13.45m for the May 5-17 edition in Cambodia.
But she believes that she is on the right track with her coach Reuben Jones. The pair have been working on the length of her run-ups with a focus on taking shorter strides before her jump.
Rozario said: “Triple jump is a very technical event. If you are changing even a small thing in your routine, everything else changes. So you need time and a lot of practice.
“It has been challenging, but I know I am getting better and... I hope I will go on to achieve my goals.”