Gymnastics: Schools National trampoline event takes a tumble

Poor turnout at Schools National events means A Div might be scrapped next year

Lee Kern Choong in action at the Singapore Open Gymnastics Championships at the Bishan Sports Hall, June 8.
Lee Kern Choong in action at the Singapore Open Gymnastics Championships at the Bishan Sports Hall, June 8. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

With every bounce, jump, layout and somersault flip, the gymnasts from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) were not just aiming for honours at the trampoline competition at the Singapore Open Gymnastics Championships yesterday.

The quartet of Victoria Lee, Julian Koh, Kwang Hao Yang and Cathy Chen were also fighting for the sport's survival in their school.

The students' involvement at the event comes after they received a crushing piece of news from their teacher-in-charge following this year's Schools National competition that the team might be disbanded should there be a lack of participants in the event next year.

Only 17 gymnasts from three schools (HCI, Catholic Junior College and Raffles Institution) took part in the A Division trampoline competition this year.

And the numbers are set to drop further as RI have stopped their intake of trampoline gymnasts.

Lee Kern Choong, dressed in his former school RI's colours, showing his class in winning the men's level 5
event at the Bishan Sports Hall. The trampoline competition was included for the first time in 13 editions of
the national gymnastics meet but there is concern over its future at the schools' A Division. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN

There are just five gymnasts remaining in HCI's current batch, and they train on their own once a week at the school's gym.

Hao Yang said: "We're just trying to do what we can to make our CCA survive. When the teacher advised us to take up a second CCA, it was sad. We were sitting in a circle and just staring at each other."

Julian added: "I think we're scared of the possibility that there will be no more gymnastics competition in A Division next year."

For the moment, the HCI gymnasts have joined CCAs as varied as science and research club, health and fitness club and English literature, drama, debate and film society.

The handful of Hwa Chong student athletes are not the only ones who are staring at the struggling sport. Raffles Girls' School's trampoline gymnasts are also facing the same crisis once they leave and go to RI (years five and six).

Captain Ruth Wee, a Secondary Four student, said: "Many of us want to continue in the sport, but it's sad that we are not given the chance to when we go to RI next year.

"Maybe if we really want to continue, we would have to go to join clubs outside of school."

The trampoline has been included for the first time in 13 editions of the annual gymnastics meet.

Former RI gymnast Lee Kern Choong wore his alma mater's signature green and white leotard to win the men's level 5 event yesterday. The higher the category, the more difficult is the routine.

Also weighing heavily on Lee's mind is the sport's future. The Singapore University of Technology and Design undergraduate said: "I don't really care about how good or bad people are. All of us just want to participate here.

"We know that whatever we are doing, 99 per cent of the world cannot do it, even if we fall badly or compete at a lower level.

  • It's a tricky sport

  • Trampolining is an Olympic sport that involves gymnasts performing acrobatics while bouncing on a trampoline.

    Each routine comprises different combinations of somersaults, twists and landings, and body shapes and positions such as the pike or tuck.

    Gymnasts perform two routines, one compulsory and one optional.

    The compulsory routine has a fixed set of skills.

    A panel of judges give a performance score out of 10, based on the execution of their routines.

    For an optional routine, an additional score is based on the degree of difficulty.

"So it's already an achievement to just come out here and try to compete."

Singapore Gymnastics president Choy Kah Kin, 60, has noted the rise in the number of trampoline parks, which he hopes will popularise the sport and help him build a team if the discipline makes its debut at future editions of the SEA Games. The first facility opened in Tanjong Katong in 2013 but has since closed. But there are now six centres at Jurong East, Pandan Gardens, Serangoon Gardens, Yishun, River Valley and Orchard Road.

He said: "More people are interested at a recreational level as you can see more clubs. Now we want to slowly develop it and bring it up to competition level."

Responding to the students' worries, Choy said: "We will try to revive the sport in schools. We are very concerned, and if the schools come and ask us for any assistance, we will do our best and we stand ready to help."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Trampoline takes tumble'. Print Edition | Subscribe