SINGAPORE - Perhaps the hardest thing about pursuing a new sport is taking the first step - learning it. For others who are young, the passion might lay undiscovered.
That was certainly the case for budding short track speed skater Amelia Chua. The 10-year-old joined the Learn-to-Skate (LTS) programme in 2014, when she was seven.
She said: "From then on, I was very sure I wanted to pursue speed skating and I am glad I had a chance to join the Sisa (Singapore Ice Skating Association) development programme."
Launched in 2012, the year-round programme is developed by Sisa and run by The Rink at JCube. According to its website, the multi-module programme "aims to develop love of ice skating for people of all ages" and "cultivate a solid skating foundation through standardised progressive courses".
On Sunday (Sept 3), the former member of the national development team broke two records - 333m and 500m - in the Junior E Girls category (nine to 10 years old) at the Singapore Short Track Speed Skating National Championships.
With her performance at The Rink at JCube, she also qualified for advancement and became the youngest-ever skater to claim a spot in the national team.
Amelia is just one of the many skaters who have benefited from Sisa's revamp on its youth development programme. Another initiative introduced by the association is the Bridging programme.
The six-week course that began at the end of last year is open to intermediate skaters and high-potential youths, and allows them to advance their skills on the ice and progress to competitive speed skating.
Alyssa Pok, a participant of the Bridging programme, was another top performer at the National Championships. The 13-year-old (12 years old as of July 1) was the Junior Girls Champion and set new records in the 500m and 1000m races for Junior D Girls (11 to 12 years old).
"I feel very happy as I achieved a new personal best," said Alyssa. "I also feel rewarded as I had put in a lot of hard work to win the National Junior Championship. I am glad I had attended the Bridging programme as it allowed me to concentrate on the skating techniques that I don't do as well in, and this has helped me to improve on my timing for training and competitions."
The association is pleased that its efforts are bearing fruit, evident with the performance at the recent National Championships. It also generates optimism about the Republic's speed skating progress, following the four silvers and one bronze medals garnered during the Aug 19-30 SEA Games.
"I am thrilled to see our young speed skaters hitting developmental milestones earlier and setting new best times consistently… it is testament to the potential of our future athletes. We want to be ready to take short track speed skating in Singapore to the next level and eventually have a short track team at the Olympics," said Sonja Chong, president of Sisa.