Winter sports in Singapore

Speed skaters won't put their dreams on ice

Short-track speed skaters Lucas Ng (in black suit bottoms) and Matthew Mak in action. The pair hope to compete at the 2017 SEA Games.
Short-track speed skaters Lucas Ng (in black suit bottoms) and Matthew Mak in action. The pair hope to compete at the 2017 SEA Games.ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

Most athletes struggle with form, stamina and strength. But for short-track speed skater Lucas Ng, braving the cold used to be one of his greatest challenges.

The 27 year-old said: "We grew up in hot tropical countries but on the ice rink, we wear skin-tight suits (while training and racing)."

Reducing wind resistance at around 40kmh is all-important. "Wearing a jacket would trap wind and slow us down, and this is a very high-speed sport," he added.

After almost 22 years, the temperature is no longer an issue for Ng, one of 12 selected as the first Singapore ice skaters in late 2010.

He said: "Knowing this is a very unique sport (in Singapore) and being a national athlete representing the country really keeps me going.

"When you are competing for the country, you have to be disciplined enough to go for training sessions and (sometimes) even control your diet for enhanced performance."

The perennial challenge for him and the other local speed skaters is to find more training time on ice as there is only one Olympic-sized rink in Singapore, at JCube.

Not only do they have to share training slots with ice hockey players, but also schedule training around the public's use of the facility. While he trains four hours a week on ice, he would prefer more than 15 hours weekly.

Said Helen Chia, spokesman of Singapore Ice Skating Association: "JCube is a community rink, which means that we have to schedule our on-ice training either in the morning or at night, before or after the rink is used by the public."

Ng added: "We have only two times of ice training a week and complement it with daily off-ice strength training."

With the prospect of ice skating being included in the 2017 SEA Games, Ng - who currently coaches part-time in the Learn To Skate program at JCube - has set his sights on winning a medal.

He said: "It will be a glorious moment if I can represent Singapore at the Games.

"I also want to reach out to more skaters, groom them into professionals and grow the community."

If all goes well, Ng might not be the only short track skater flying the Republic's flag. Matthew Mak, 18, is regarded as being capable of joining him at the 2017 Games.

Said Matthew, who started off as a figure skater before switching to speed skating when he was 13: "I really love the sport, I enjoy the adrenaline, the feeling of skating fast, the companionship of team-mates."

He hopes to win a medal in his pet event, the 1,000m race. "I do not have as much explosive power (as some skaters), so I prefer the middle-distance 1,000m race compared to the 500m and 1,500m distances," he said.

"There is also the relay event which I feel is the most important as it showcases our team spirit."

Ng, understandably, is excited at the prospect of participating in the SEA Games. He said: "I don't feel that I have reached my peak yet. I believe I still have a long way to go, especially since I feel that I have been improving every season."

In short, the cold brings him a certain reassuring warmth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'Speed skaters won't put their dreams on ice'. Print Edition | Subscribe