Pillars of strength and wisdom

Who or what inspired local athletes in 2014? Was it a coach, a speech or an overseas competition? Rohit Brijnath, Jonathan Wong and May Chen speak to 10 of them and find that inspiration comes from wide-ranging sources

Mok Ying Ren. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Mok Ying Ren. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Marathoner, 26

Inspiration: Michael Shelley

I was standing at the finish line in Glasgow when Shelley ran past to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal. No one expected him to beat all the Kenyans and Ugandans who usually win the marathon events.

But he believed in himself and in his training. I read his quotes after his victory, how he wasn't even sure if he was going to finish in the top three in the final 10km, but he stuck to it and won.

It reaffirms the belief that if you put your mind to it and work hard, you can beat the unbeatable.

This thought really stuck with me and even though I was injured and couldn't compete at the Games, I managed to take something very valuable from there.


Swimmer, 19


Inspiration: Swim coach Kris Kubik

I and my University of Texas swim team were in Michigan for a meet, and our assistant swim coach Kris Kubik gave a speech about how everyone wanted to beat us because we were the best team this year.

He said "we're going to war" and that just hit me.

I have never felt so pumped up before a simple meet. All I wanted was to go into battle with my team and destroy everyone else.

Two things became clear to me that day. First, the atmosphere in college swimming is like nothing else, even the Olympics.

Second, being part of a team, and the chemistry that comes with it, is instrumental to fast swimming.

There's nothing like a group of people coming together, overcoming adversity as one.

That's something truly special.


Netballer, 29


Inspiration: The Singapore public

It feels like the support from the public has been greater than ever in 2014. I was looking at comments on social media sites after our Asian Championship win and was pleasantly surprised by the number of supporters and their encouraging words.

Then, at the recent Nations Cup where we were facing stronger competition, someone came up to us and said: "Even if you don't win, we are still proud of you."

It is always great to have the chance to compete on home ground.

I am thankful for the increased support and interest in the sport locally; it definitely inspires the team to keep going when times are hard.


Sailor, 15


Inspiration: Saiyidah Aisyah

I came across this inspiring quote from our Singapore rower Saiyidah Aisyah while randomly browsing the web this year: "If you ever lose motivation in achieving your goals, always remember why you started in the first place."

It struck me hard as I realised that success does not come easy. It's not about competing with others but about competing with myself. Only when I challenge myself can I see my true potential and capability.

Aisyah was the first Singaporean to win a gold in rowing at the 2013 SEA Games. Her mindset of not giving up without trying is really admirable. I'm inspired by this healthy way of thinking and I must apply it not just to my sailing but to my life in general.


Badminton, 25


Inspiration: My dad

My dad Wong Shoon Keat knows about pressure. He won a SEA Games gold in badminton in 1983, on home ground, and that wasn't easy. He understands what it means to be on the big stage and how life can change.

So when I won a silver at the Commonwealth Games this year, he knew there would be a lot of distractions - people want your time, the media wants interviews.

It's when he inspired me. He reminded me to enjoy the game, he told me not to get over-excited by the medal but to aim higher.

Now I'm relaxed as I don't think too much about the fact that I won silver. I'm just focused on the next medal at the next major Games.

So, thanks Dad.


Table tennis player, 20


Inspiration: Gilmore Junio

Junio, a Filipino-Canadian ice skater, after finishing 10th in the 500m at the 2014 Winter Olympics, gave up his spot to his team-mate Denny Morrison in the 1,000m. He thought Morrison, who fell during the trials, had a better chance of a medal.

And then he was proven right when Morrison won silver.

To get to the Games is a dream come true. Yet, Junio said that giving away his place was an easy decision because it was the right decision. I thought it was selflessness at its best. I cannot say that I could do the same thing as it has not happened to me but I hope I have the heart to be able to do it.

Sport is about overcoming adversity but it is not just about that. It is also about the influence you have in the lives of others and an ability to see the big picture.


Paralympic sailor, 28


Inspiration: Tracy Schmitt

I had no idea how Tracy Schmitt was going to sail. She is a four-way amputee: No legs, which means she wears prosthetics.

Her left arms end below the elbow. Her right arm has no hand and no fingers but a single thumb.

Yet, she somehow sailed.

Later, I found out she had climbed mountains and won a medal in a skiing competition. I am inspired by people like her who are very positive about their disabilities.

She's friendly, she's confident and she looks for solutions.

Her website is called UnstoppableTracy.com.

It's a fitting name.


Shooter, 26


Inspiration: My team-mates

I work and I shoot and I find it tiring but Teh Xiu Hong and Nicole Tan - my pistol-shooting team-mates - are special.

Xiu Hong has a part-time job and studies full-time, and yet she shoots.

Nicole has a full-time job and studies part-time, and yet she shoots. Somehow, despite their hectic schedule, they find time to practise. They train at the range without being asked.

It's simply a passion to do well.

It's a drive that inspires me because when I see them going for training, I want to go too.

By finding time for shooting amid work and studies means that they don't have time for anything else.

This is sacrifice and it is stirring.


Diver, 20


Inspiration: Sports psychologist Joyce Koh

In late August, during practice, my right leg slipped, my left leg slammed into the board, I tore a joint capsule and injured a ligament.

For four years, I had prepared, planned and sweated for the Asian Games. When I got to hospital, I was crying to my mother: "I can't go to the Asian Games."

It was possibly the lowest point of my sporting career but Joyce Koh inspired me with a valuable thought. She told me that all goals, in sport and beyond, are adjustable. I had built a psychological wall regarding my injury and got frustrated that my body wasn't healing as fast as I wanted it to.

She also taught me imagery. I can't physically dive yet but I can at least "practise" a dive in my mind, I can visualise it in detail. I can do these dives in my head even when I'm in the MRT train.

I'm challenging a part of myself I've never challenged before.

Joyce's advice calmed me down and gave me focus at a time when I needed it.


Bowler, 24


Inspiration: South Korea men's bowling team

As good as the South Korean men's team are, they have fallen short time after time at winning gold at the world championships - until this year.

I watched the tournament online, and to see the kind of emotions the team had, that amount of passion they displayed during their games, was very special.

It is not easy to be so near yet still be so far from a dream you have had for the longest time.

Even the best of us take time to get back up on our feet.

How the South Koreans are able to come back year after year with a renewed effort really inspires me because I also lose motivation to train from time to time.

They inspire me to try and get over setbacks faster and just start to put your heart and mind into training again.


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