Muay thai fighters take steps to kick into gear for Olympic dream

Cheryl Gwa, who won a bronze in the women's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg) category at the Asian Beach Games, and Bryan Tee, who won a silver in the men's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg).
Cheryl Gwa, who won a bronze in the women's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg) category at the Asian Beach Games, and Bryan Tee, who won a silver in the men's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg).PHOTO COURTESY OF GOH WAN XIU

Muay thai may have received provisional status as an Olympic sport but Singapore's exponents have their sights set closer to home for now.

The main focus for some of the 10 national athletes in the Amateur Muaythai Association of Singapore (Amas)'s stable is next year's SEA Games, although the provisional Olympic status was cheered by the fraternity.

Said 26-year-old Cheryl Gwa, who won a bronze in the women's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg) category at the Asian Beach Games: "It's good that muay thai is finally getting recognition. This gives athletes something to work towards."

Added Bryan Tee, a silver medallist at the same competition in the men's light-flyweight (45kg-48kg) event: "I'm very happy about it. I hope... I can one day participate in the Olympics by representing Singapore in muay thai."

Before that, however, the 19-year-old will be focusing on his next few meets - May's Ifma World Championships, August's SEA Games and September's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

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  • Number of medals Singapore's muay thai exponents have claimed from three International Olympic Committee competitions this year.

The ITE College Central student, who also clinched a silver at the Ifma World Youth Championships this year, said: "I have two silver medals from this year, so I hope my next medal will be a gold."

Amas has already submitted five names to the Singapore National Olympic Council for approval to compete at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

There are only events for men in the regional competition.

Amas president Mervyn Tan said: "We can expect a very exciting SEA Games from our muay thai athletes, looking at the direction and their performance this year.

"Singapore will feature strongly at the Games, and we are a force that should not be ignored."

The athletes have won four medals from three competitions sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee this year.

They are the Aug 27-Sept 2 Ifma Youth World Championships in Bangkok, the Sept 2-8 Cheongju World Martial Arts Masterships in South Korea and the Sept 24-Oct 3 Asian Beach Games in Vietnam.

And Tan, who is also the secretary-general of the Federation of Amateur Muaythai of Asia, believes that, should muay thai be staged at the Olympics one day, Singapore has a good chance to shine.

"We're not talking about another Joseph Schooling, but on the Asian front we are pretty strong, and there's always hope," he said.

Nicole Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'Fighters take steps to kick into gear for Olympic dream'. Print Edition | Subscribe