Nominee #5: Cheyenne Goh (short track speed skating)

ST Athlete of the Year: Relentless pursuit of perfection for Singapore's first Winter Olympian Cheyenne Goh

Cheyenne Goh made history when she became the first Singaporean to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month. Her experience has left the 19-year-old wanting to push herself to close the gap on the world's best athletes.
Cheyenne Goh made history when she became the first Singaporean to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month. Her experience has left the 19-year-old wanting to push herself to close the gap on the world's best athletes.PHOTO: REUTERS

Olympic dream realised, but history-maker Goh just wants to keep getting better

She is Singapore's first Winter Olympian and, while making her debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea last month was "a dream" come true, Cheyenne Goh admitted that she was "outclassed".

The short track speed skater finished fifth out of six competitors in her 1,500m heat at the Gangneung Ice Arena in 2 min 36.971 seconds - far from her 2:31 personal best - and missed out on the semi-finals.

However, the once-in-a-lifetime experience has whetted her appetite and made her more determined to become better.

"I know I've been to the Olympics, but I don't think it matters. I was outclassed, and it became clear to me that I need to work harder if I am to close the gap on the best in the world, even if it's just by a little bit," said Goh, who turned 19 yesterday and is one of five nominees for The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award.

"I know where I stand and there are limitations to what I can do. I know there'll be expectations but, for now, I just have to learn from my experience, train as hard as possible to keep improving."

She remembers the moment she stepped out at the Gangneung Ice Arena. There was a long wait before she could get on the ice but, even with history to be written with the blades of her skates, there was no time to bask in it. There was a job to be done. Goh's thoughts centred on one thing: the race plan.

"It was definitely a dream, but nothing more than that. I wasn't expecting to make the Olympics, it was like a lottery, and I had to buy a ticket if I was going to have a chance to win," said Goh, who asserted that she had been forced to grow up in the time she attempted to qualify for the Winter Olympics.

Goh lives by the simple mantra of setting a target and throwing everything into training to get there. And national short track speed skating coach Chun Lee Kyung is impressed by that attitude.

"When I first started working with Cheyenne, she wasn't very flexible and didn't have too much endurance. She was always very quiet but, once she got on the ice she was very different," said the four-time Olympic gold medallist.

"She becomes very serious, full of concentration - she really tries very hard every time she's on the ice."

Goh is now in Poland for the World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, where she is slated to compete in the 500m and 1,000m events.

The Canada-based athlete, who is taking a gap year from Leduc Composite High School to train full-time, will then head to Montreal for the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships from March 16-18. She finished 46th in both competitions last year.

Goh also relishes being a role model to aspiring winter sport athletes. She spoke to some 30 youngsters at The Rink @ JCube last Sunday in a meet-and-greet session, sharing her "awesome" Olympic experience. She said: "Falling is part of the sport. When learning something, you cannot expect to be successful all the time, but you just got to keep trying."

Recounting her experience with the youngsters, she added with a chuckle: "I kind of realise that I'm an inspiration for these kids. It's a bit hard for me to believe, I'm just a skater who wants to get better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2018, with the headline 'Relentless pursuit of perfection'. Print Edition | Subscribe