Skateboarding to ramp up local game

Singapore skateboarder Johan Badiuzzaman Johar training at the SEA Games venue in Tagaytay City, Philippines, last month. He finished ninth in the men's park final. PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE
Singapore skateboarder Johan Badiuzzaman Johar training at the SEA Games venue in Tagaytay City, Philippines, last month. He finished ninth in the men's park final.PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

Revamp and development on cards after athletes finish SEA Games without a medal

At last month's SEA Games in the Philippines, former Asian X Games champion Feroze Rahman found himself up against the likes of Indonesia's young talent Sanggoe Dharma in the battle for honours, and eventually finished seventh in the men's street event.

With the sport making its SEA Games bow, Singapore's six-athlete skateboarding contingent - led by 29-year-old veteran Feroze - had targeted a clutch of medals at the biennial event.

But they got a reality check in Tagaytay City as they returned home empty-handed, with their best result fourth place by Nur Farah Atika in the women's street.

The hosts topped the tally with 11 medals - six golds, four silvers and a bronze - ahead of Indonesia (1-3-3), Malaysia (1-0-1) and Thailand (0-1-3). Myanmar and Vietnam also did not win any medals.

While Feroze said he was proud of how the skateboarders had performed, he acknowledged that the other countries in the region had caught up with Singapore, who once produced some of the best athletes in South-east Asia.

"Singapore was once really good, but the neighbours have caught up and surpassed us in terms of facilities and providing the next generation of skaters," said Feroze, who won gold at the 2011 Asian X Games.

Singapore RollerSports Federation's vice-president of skateboarding Rezal Ramli told The Straits Times: "They didn't disappoint or perform badly. Based on their standards, they performed well.

"We knew it was tough but we thought there would be a couple of podium or near podium finishes so (returning medal-less) was something that we didn't expect."

The SEA Games skateboarding competition featured top athletes such as SEA Games street champion Dharma - who at 13 won a bronze at the Kia World Extreme Games - and Filipino Margielyn Didal, who won gold at last year's Asian Games and clinched two SEA Games gold in the women's Game of Skate and street.

Both athletes have also competed in the world renowned Street League Skateboarding (SLS) competition.

REALITY CHECK

We knew it was tough but we thought there would be a couple of podium or near podium finishes so (returning medal-less) was something that we didn't expect.

REZAL RAMLI, Singapore RollerSports Federation vice-president, on the performance at the SEA Games.

PLAYING CATCH UP

Singapore was once really good, but the neighbours have caught up and surpassed us in terms of facilities and providing the next generation of skaters.

FEROZE RAHMAN, national skateboarder, on closing the gap with regional rivals.

While Singapore's skateboarders train at the East Coast Xtreme Skatepark - which boasts a combo bowl, vertical bowl and street course - and other facilities around the island, there are no sheltered venues and no street courses that meet the SLS standard.

In comparison, Indonesia has the international standard Kalijodo skate park while Malaysia has the sheltered Mont Kiara skatepark in Kuala Lumpur.

With other countries raising their game, the rollersports federation plans to develop the sport over the next three to five years to level up with their regional rivals.

While details are still being worked out, the national sports association will focus on forming and developing the men's and women's national teams for street and park. Before the SEA Games, there was no national squad and skateboarders trained individually.

"Skaters who went for the SEA Games are now inspired to do better," said Rezal. "I want to get an environment and a framework that will allow them to train and better themselves."

Identifying talent at local competitions is on its priority list. And the federation plans to raise funds by organising coaching clinics. Certification for coaches is also on the cards this year, as they hope to introduce skateboarding in schools.

Rezal hopes that these efforts to raise standards will eventually lead to more facilities being built for the skaters.

The road ahead may be riddled with challenges, but Feroze believes that they can be overcome as the sport gains more acceptance from the public.

After debuting at the SEA Games, skateboarding is set to make its maiden appearance at the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Feroze is hoping to get a shot at the Olympics, saying: "It's not just a personal achievement. Trying to qualify would show people that there is a very positive endpoint of skateboarding.

"To show that it's not a rebellious sport, that there's more to it and to motivate the younger generation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 05, 2020, with the headline 'Skateboarding to ramp up local game'. Print Edition | Subscribe