Sailing: Ryan Lo puts degree on hold as he aims for 2024 Olympic gold

Singapore sailor Ryan Lo speaking to his coach, four-time Olympian Nenad Viali, after competing in an East Coast race. He intends to put his studies on hold after his national service ends in July, so that he can train full-time for the 2020 Olympics
Singapore sailor Ryan Lo speaking to his coach, four-time Olympian Nenad Viali, after competing in an East Coast race. He intends to put his studies on hold after his national service ends in July, so that he can train full-time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with the aim of winning gold at Paris 2024.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Some athletes keep their goals close to their chests to avoid putting more pressure on themselves but national sailor Ryan Lo is not one of them.

After stating and meeting his two-gold target (individual and team) at last August's SEA Games and then finishing 36th as the top Asian at the Laser Standard world championships a month later, he now has even bigger dreams.

"My targets are gold at the Asian Games (in August) and a top-10 finish in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And then, I hope to win in 2024 (Paris Olympics)," he said.

"Everyone's different but sailors mostly peak in their late 20s. I don't know where my peak is but I always think I can do more."

He will put his studies on hold to train full-time - focusing on competing in the Sailing World Cup series, an annual affair featuring more than 2,000 of the world's best in all the Olympic classes - until the 2020 Games after he completes his national service in July.

His coach, Nenad Viali, who competed at four Olympics and trained sailors at another four editions, said: "Sailing is a physical, technical and mental sport, comparable to a chess match, but playing against 60-70 opponents simultaneously - not only your competitors but against the wind and waves as well.

"Ryan is a good tactician, he's a fighter but, in modern sailing, it's no longer just about having one talent and (assuming that) he is going to produce a medal."

Besides spending more time in the gym to increase his endurance and add 3.5kg to his 1.78m, 77.5kg frame - which Lo feels is his ideal weight for better manoeuvring and control of the craft - he wants to improve his handling technique.

He plans to read economics at an Australian university after the Tokyo Games but stressed that sailing will take precedence, "maybe something like doing one semester and then taking the next off".

Lo, whose older half-siblings Man Yi and Jun Hao are former national sailors, added that his parents are supportive of his decision.

He turns 21 next month and is just entering his prime, if past Laser Olympic champions are anything to go by.

Tom Burton was 25 when he won at Rio 2016, while fellow Australian Tom Slingsby was 28 when he won at London 2012.

The Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) has linked Lo up with the Singapore Sports Institute and he now has access to a nutritionist, psychologist, physiologist and strength and conditioning coach.

SSF chief executive Lim Han Ee noted: "Ryan is the real deal. His poise, confidence and competitive spirit belie his age and such people don't come around often."

With the right set-up around him, Lo believes he can reach his fullest potential.

He said: "I'm confident, not confident that (I'll win Olympic gold), but in how I am progressing. Because I see where I'm at and how much more I have to go."

Lester Wong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2018, with the headline 'Lo puts degree on hold as he aims for 2024 Olympic gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe