Winter Olympics: Speed skater Cheyenne Goh ready for historic debut, insists she won't get cold feet

Short track speed skater Cheyenne Goh is the first Singaporean to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Short track speed skater Cheyenne Goh is the first Singaporean to qualify for the Winter Olympics.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - "Nine days" is what Cheyenne Goh's calendar tells her on Thursday (Feb 8). Nine days of training left, nine days to racing at her first Olympic Games, nine days more of excitement, nerves, and a little bit of occasional frustration.

But even as things are heating up on the rink while she trains, the 18-year-old short track speed skater is keeping a cool head as race day approaches.

In the past 30 days or so that she has been in Goyang preparing for the Winter Games, which open on Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea and end on Feb 25, Goh has been training six hours a day and estimates that she has had just two days off.

But she has few complaints about the rigour that she has been put through at the Goyang Eoullimnuri Ice Rink, because she will enter the athletes' village tomorrow and join the best in the world.

Admitting there have been times of frustration in the past month, she told The Straits Times: "You try to improve as much as you can, but there's not actually that much time and that can be frustrating.

"Sometimes you just have to take a step back... I think I was fine once I realised that some things are really not within my control and I'm doing all that I can."

Having made peace with this, the teenager is pleased with how she has improved so far: A more consistent technique and smoother skating.

She added: "I'm not necessarily a lot better at this, but I'm trying to skate more efficiently as I think it's important to be able to last through the whole thing in a longer-distance race."

Goh, Singapore's first Winter Olympian, will compete in the 1,500m event - 13 and a half rounds around a 111.12m rink - at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb 17.

She is unfazed by the occasion and has no pre-race ritual - "I don't find that I get super nervous before a competition" - though she has considered the possibility of some scenarios.

"(The other competitors) could just all sprint off the start or they might start a bit slow... it's difficult to guess how the competitors are going to race and I'm not exactly sure what I'll be doing yet," said Goh, who has been spending whatever little free time she has watching television.

She is also undaunted by the prospect of competing against a field that includes the likes of two-time 1,500m Olympic champion Zhou Yang of China and world-record holder Choi Min Jeong of South Korea.

Said Goh: "I don't think it makes a difference that whether it's at the Olympics or whether I'm racing against (both of ) them at the World Cups. They're really fast obviously, and will still be fast no matter where they are."

Zhou's winning time of 2min 19.140sec at the Sochi Games in 2014 is much faster than Goh's personal best of about 2:31, and the latter's goals come next Saturday are to "skate as hard as I can, try to race well and then see how it goes".

Her final phase of preparations will involve getting used to the ice surface and being accustomed to the venue.

She added: "I'm just looking forward to taking it all in.

"I've heard that it can be quite a unique experience so I just want to enjoy everything."