SINGAPORE – When national fencer Joel Chiu enrolled for the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programme at the Singapore Sports School (SSP), he opted for the extended course so that he could have more time to juggle studies and sport.
This meant that he took three years to complete the programme instead of the usual two, and he had to watch his batch mates graduate before him.
But the decision paid off for him, as he not only won a gold medal as part of the men’s foil team at the 2022 SEA Games in Hanoi, but also did well in his studies.
While Chiu, 19, declined to reveal his IB score, he was among about two-thirds of SSP’s cohort who scored at least 40 out of the maximum 45 points when the results were released on Tuesday.
Citing the Hanoi Games as his highlight of 2022, Chiu said: “There were concerns that I maybe wouldn’t get to graduate with my batch of friends because we were studying together over several years.
“I accepted it because it was either that or I try and qualify for the SEA Games and the SEA Games were more important.”
It was also relief for national shooter Natanya Tan, who attained a perfect score.
May was the busiest and most challenging month for the St Joseph’s Institution International student.
She had to make several key submissions for her IB programme, complete a calculus exam, take her IB English oral exam and compete at the Hanoi Games.
In Vietnam, she won the bronze medal in the women’s 10m air rifle team event.
With her IB English oral exam taking place just three days after the Hanoi Games, she had to squeeze in some time to recite her exam script while undergoing her pre-match routine, which includes prayers, meditation and visualisation.
She was also kept busy by her duties as president of her school’s debating society and captain of the senior debating team, as well as her involvement in several mental health projects.
The 18-year-old, who hopes to pursue a degree in medicine or psychology, plans to take a gap year in 2023 to focus on qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Things were also not easy for national sprinter Mark Lee, who found it challenging to balance his studies and sporting commitments at times.
This became especially hard when he had to compete in the 2022 World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Colombia in August, with his preliminary exams about a fortnight away.
So the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student prioritised the competition, leading to less-than-ideal results in his exams.
But, with the help of his teachers, parents and friends, Lee was able to score 41 points at the IB exams.
“I’m very grateful for everyone around me,” said the 18-year-old, who broke two decade-long records in both the A Division boys’ 100m and 200m in 2022 and won a bronze medal in the men’s 4x100m relay in Hanoi.
“They were understanding of my different commitments and they helped me a lot with getting back on track.”
SSP’s Sabrina Lee, who was a member of the Singapore Badminton Association’s national team training squad from 2021 to 2022, was pleased with her score of 44 points.
Having a supportive community was crucial in helping the 18-year-old manage her sporting commitments with school and her duties as the student council’s president.
She said: “I really enjoyed the process – it wasn’t suffering all the time, I was together with friends and I really enjoyed being in our small classes.
“Since we had such a small community, we shared the same goals and we kept each other going.”