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Shaping Sport's Future

Champions For Sports

Athletes spend years honing their skill, perfecting their trade, learning and acquiring knowledge to help them become the best at what they do. So it’s only natural that they find their back to their first love after retiring from competitive sport; only this time, in a different role. Where they were once in the limelight at any competition, they now sit on the sidelines as a coach, a sport manager, a sport scientist, a sport propagandist.

With Singapore Sports School’s first batch of student-athletes graduating some 14 years ago, many have begun their post-sport careers in various industries – some in food and beverage, some in entertainment, others in financial services, and still some in sport.

Understandably, many have obtained coaching qualifications and are passing on their knowledge and love for the sport to their charges. Among these coaches, a number have returned to their alma mater to nurture the next generation of sport champions for Singapore, such as bowler Tay Hui Wen, fencer Cheryl Lim, netballer Geraldine Ng Jie Hui, swimmer Mylene Ong Chui Bin – an Olympian at the London 2012 Games and sprinter Rafiuddin Sawal.

Others, like Richard Chng Li Jie chose to strike it out on their own. The former national swimmer started swim school, AquaTech Swimming, in September 2016 and, at one stage of his coaching career, sat on Singapore Swimming Association’s Swimming Coaches Development Committee. Under Richard’s guidance, national swimmer Teong Tzen Wei became a sensation after he won a gold at his Southeast Asian Games debut in 2017.

Ng Zong Ren, also a former national athlete, had an opportunity to share his love for badminton with disabled athletes. As a coach with the Singapore Disability Sports Council for four years, Zong Ren considers it to be one of the most enjoyable phase of his life.

“I've learnt to be simpler in the way I coach, the way I give instructions and in my expectations. Coaching para athletes is different from teaching able-bodied players. Understanding each player – their body language and condition – and then having to customise this programme accordingly was a challenge as their abilities – or disabilities – may differ from person to person,” said Zong Ren, a shuttler from Sports School’s pioneer batch of student-athletes.

“Everything that the athletes do is so pure. The simple joy of these athletes being able to just learn a skill and overcome obstacles. It’s not often that coaches can enjoy the sport in his purest, simplest form, without worrying about medals or results. I feel lucky to be able to experience impart the true joy of playing badminton.”

Another alumnus dedicated to growing subscription for his sport is Timothy Low Wei Qiang. The television host with Asian Tour, the official regional sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, recently launched Compass Club whose core services offers members preferential rates at selected local and regional clubs.

They say it takes one to know one. Athletes have invested so much into sport that after they retire, their passion drives them to contribute back to it, to create positive change within the system so that future, and hopefully current, athletes can benefit. Some have taken the opportunity to be the voice for athletes through their roles in national and international agencies.

Zena Sim Kai Xin, Sports School’s first Commonwealth Games gold medallist back in 2006, is Head of World Cups and ITTF Challenge with the International Table Tennis Federation where she is involved in growing the competitive scene. 2016 Olympic Games sailor Jovina Choo Bei Fen currently looking into the growth and expansion of National Olympians Associations in Asia in her role as World Olympians Association Development Manager for Asia. Closer to home, Dipna Lim Prasad (Track and Field), Isabelle Li Siyun (Table Tennis) and Martina Lindsay P Veloso (Shooting) sit on Singapore National Olympic Council’s Athletes’ Commission (SNOC AC). During their term from 2017 to 2020, the committee aims to “promote a conducive, supportive and sustainable environment to enable athletes in Singapore to achieve their potential”.

“The Commission is the voice of the athletes, so we get looped into various meetings to represent the athlete body like campaigns involving athletes or even major Games uniform designs. This year, we are conducting a series of workshops which address topics athletes are interested in, gathered through a survey. We want to empower and equip athletes with skills for life during and after sport,” said Dipna, Vice-Chair of the SNOC AC.