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A Perfect Balancing Act

Interview with Kimberly Ong Li Ling, Alumna, Individual Programme (Wushu)

Wushu exponent Kimberly Ong Li Ling has proven that it is possible to achieve sporting and academic goals at Singapore Sports School. The recent alumna who will be representing Singapore at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, had achieved a perfect score for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). She transferred from a mainstream school when she was in Secondary 4 to take advantage of Singapore Sports School’s athlete-friendliness to further her development in sports. The high-performing athlete shares with us what makes Sports School different, and her experience taking up the extended IBDP programme.

1. Why did you decide to join Singapore Sports School?
I first decided to join Sports School after hearing about its student-athlete friendly programme. Back in my secondary school, I often felt misunderstood, as many would question why I wanted to juggle both sports and academics. In a secondary school where the academic rigour was very high, I constantly found myself struggling to find time for both sports and academics.

Upon hearing about the extended IBDP programme in Sports School, I was immediately intrigued, as I could already imagine the benefits it would bring me - more time to train without having to worry about my academics. Hence, I took a leap of faith and joined Sports School back in Secondary 4, and I have not looked back.

One more point that also attracted me to Sport School was the fact that I would be able to meet like-minded individuals who shared the same goals as me. In my secondary school, it was hard to find anybody who went through the same struggles as me i.e. having to train and study at the same time. Hence, I never managed to find someone whom I could relate to. However, coming to Sports School changed that, as I made a group of very close friends who shared the same goal as me, which was to excel in both sports and studies. I definitely felt more understood and at ease at Sports School, knowing that I was not the only one who had this bold dream of doing well in both fields.

2. How has Sports School supported your sports and academic pursuits?
Sports School has supported me so well throughout my four years of being here. Firstly, the teachers are always so understanding towards my situation. For example, whenever I had a long training day or a competition trial, instead of berating me for not having finished my pre-assigned work, they are always willing to give me extra time to complete it. This also made me more eager to work hard and strive for better grades, as I wanted to do my teachers proud. I would like to attribute my successes in academics to my teachers who have never stopped believing in me.

As for my sport, Sports School has been a key pillar of support for me from the very start. When I tore my knee meniscus in 2019, I constantly sought help from the physiotherapy clinic in Sports School. After nursing my knee back to health, the weekly strength and conditioning sessions in Sports School have also helped me a great deal in allowing me to get to where I am today in terms of Wushu. Most importantly, the idea that Sports School will always be supportive towards my sporting endeavours has been helpful in encouraging me to continue training hard and striving for greater heights.

3. How do you feel about your results for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme?
First and foremost, I would say that the first emotion I felt was disbelief, when I heard from Mr Lim that my appeal was successful. A 45 was something that I had always dreamt about but never thought I could achieve, so I certainly could not believe it when Mr Lim told me I was now a 45-pointer.

Afterwards, a sense of relief swept over me as it occurred to me that my hard work had paid off. Over the three years of my IBDP journey, many have told me countless times that since I had one extra year to study, I should do better than everyone else. So, there was always this stress within me to perform well even though I knew that unlike others, I had more sports commitments to fulfil. A perfect score definitely made the experience of having to train six times a week while having examinations more worthwhile.

Lastly, I feel very thankful for all the support that Sports School has given me throughout my course of study. This includes all the teachers as well as sports staff who have nurtured me to what I am today. I firmly believe that my good results are not just a reflection of my efforts, but also a result of all the hard work of the people around me.

4. What has been your greatest motivation in striving for good results? 
I would say my greatest motivation was to prove to people that sportsmen can be successful in academics as well. Prior to my transfer to Sports School, many people have told me that it is impossible to do well in both sports and academics and urged me to quit my sports to focus on academics. There is a misperception that students who choose to focus on sports are those who “cannot study”. Therefore, it has been gratifying that I can show future generations of sportsmen that it is possible to achieve good academic results while pursuing our sporting dreams. 5. What are your future plans? For now, I will be training for the SEA Games. I will also be applying to both NUS and SMU, as well as Peking University and Tsinghua University. In the longer term, I would hope that I can continue to manage my sports and studies well, thereby continuing to represent Singapore at international meets while completing my university education.

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