ST Young Athlete of the Year: Strength from injury setbacks

ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Judoka Jinghan and gymnast Lincoln show self-belief in recovery to return to the peak

The injuries that had weakened them were also fittingly how judoka Wang Jinghan and gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man found their strength.

At the start of last year, Lincoln suffered a partial ligament tear in his right wrist and it threatened to derail his training and competition plans for the rest of the season.

The 18-year-old recalled: "I realised just how strong your self-belief can be. If you really want something very badly and you tell yourself you can do it, most of the time you're right."

The dislocated right collarbone she endured in April 2016 also taught Jinghan a similar lesson. She returned to training two months later, and took part in her first competition a month after. The 16-year-old said: "If you want something badly enough, you can somehow just persevere through it."

That injury had left her watching from the sidelines during the 2016 Schools National Judo Championships. But a year later, the teenager capped off her comeback in style by capturing the B Division heavyweight title for Nanyang Girls' High School in April.

Lincoln, a Singapore Sports School student, rebounded from his injury setback in similar fashion - he won four golds, one silver and two bronzes at last July's Asean Schools Games in Singapore, making him the country's top performer at the annual event.

Singapore's gymnastics team - nine golds, five silvers and six bronzes - were among the country's main contributors during the competition as the hosts finished third overall in the standings.

TEAM-MATES KEPT HER GOING

I was considering stopping judo, because (the injury) was very painful, but my team-mates constantly encouraged me and I managed to push through that difficult phase.

WANG JINGHAN, Nanyang Girls' B Division heavyweight judo champion.

STAYING FIT AND HEALTHY

Take care of yourself first. You don't want to get injured to the point where it affects your daily functions. I've been there and it's not a good place to be.

LINCOLN FOREST LIQHT MAN, Singapore Sports School gymnast who four golds at last year's Asean Schools Games.

For their achievements, Lincoln and Jinghan are two of four nominees for the inaugural Straits Times Young Athlete of the Year award. The award is an extension of ST's Star of the Month and Athlete of the Year accolades, which are backed by F&N's 100Plus.

Both teenagers' roads to recovery were filled with pain, doubt and thoughts of quitting sport.

Jinghan, whose injury occurred in the semi-finals of the 2016 Schools National, said: "I was considering stopping judo, because (the injury) was very painful, but my team-mates constantly encouraged me and I managed to push through that difficult phase. My team-mates matter a lot to me, so they were my main motivation to keep going."

Lincoln's wrist injury led to "a lot of self-reflection" and he even considered stopping gymnastics.

"I had a lot of things to work against, like my physical attributes as (at 1.8m he is taller than most gymnasts) I'm not built for gymnastics, and I was getting used to a school schedule that didn't allow me to train five hours a day for six days a week," said Lincoln, who had just started his International Baccalaureate first year then.

"But after talking to my friends, classmates, teachers and a few senior sportsmen, they told me to cherish the time I have in the sport, because a gymnastics career is a short one."

Lincoln, who hopes to one day win a SEA Games medal and qualify for the Olympic Games, has similar advice to his peers who want to pursue sport - to engage in their sport for as long as they can.

But he stressed: "Take care of yourself first. You don't want to get injured to the point where it affects your daily functions. I've been there and it's not a good place to be."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 11, 2018, with the headline 'Strength from injury setbacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe