SINGAPORE - One thing that has been clear to Alison Chan after 15 years with the Singapore Ice Skating Association (Sisa) is the sport's potential to defy expectations.
The figure skaters and speed skaters - there are now only 13 and 15 respectively - did not even have an Olympic-size rink here to train on until 2012, and even now, they train at the JCube facility from 5am, as the rink is open to the public during normal operating hours.
Yet, in the last decade, the Republic have won a maiden SEA Games title in 2017 and a Winter Olympics debut in 2018, when short-track speed skater Cheyenne Goh competed in the women's 1,500m in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
And the 56-year-old Chan, who was elected Sisa president at the association's annual general meeting on Sept 10, aims to keep the association punching above its weight by growing the base of locals in two disciplines - figure skating and short-track speed skating - and improve results at world-level competitions.
Chan, whose term lasts one year, was previously Sisa's secretary and then its vice-president. She beat Toni Woo - Sisa declined to reveal the vote count - and succeeds Sonja Chong, who stepped down to focus on officiating.
Businesswoman Chan told The Straits Times on Monday (Sept 23): "Ten years ago we never realised we could even achieve what we have done today - we've managed to get our skaters to this level. Of course moving to a higher level is what we hope to achieve.
"(The high-performance target) for short track is to do better at the world championships in terms of ranking, hopefully finish within the top 20. And also to aim for gold at the SEA Games, which we haven't got yet. The SEA Games target is to do better than at the previous one."
At the Kuala Lumpur Games two years ago, Singapore won one gold and one silver in figure skating, and four silvers and a bronze in short-track speed skating.
Pressed for a medal target for this year's Nov 29-Dec 11 Games in the Philippines, Chan said: "One should be safe. Two is hopeful."
Her top priority during her term is to strengthen Sisa's developmental pipeline through a revamp of its learn-to-skate programmes by developing clearer pathways for both disciplines. She wants to increase the size of the national team by at least 20 per cent.
Chan also aims to garner more interest from schools through outreach efforts.
"The base of skaters who compete in the inter-schools now comprise those who have taken lessons (externally) and are representing their schools," she said. "What we have to do is reach out to the schools to start their own programme to get more students to participate... with more numbers, we can have more competitions."
More details on these initiatives will be unveiled at a later date.
Though the goals in the short term are to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics and to have Singapore athletes compete at the likes of the world championships and International Skating Union World Cups, Chan added: "In 10 years we've managed to move up to this level. In the next 10 years we hope to be doing a lot more and reaching even higher standards."