Story by Koh Yizhe/Red Sports
AYG athletes Abel Lim (left) and Jabez Su (second from left) share the stage with Olympian and former 100m record holder Mr C Kunalan. (Photo 1 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Downtown East, Sunday, July 12, 2009 – It is not everyday that fans, members of the public and students from various local schools get the chance to interact with Singapore's Asian Youth Games athletes. At Milo's "Building Young Champions" forum, however, they got the rare opportunity to do just that.
Jabez Su and Abel Lim have become household names after representing Singapore at the recently concluded Asian Youth Games. Abel did the nation proud after winning a bronze medal in the 10m Air Rifle shooting competition, while Jabez and three other basketballers achieved their dream of reaching the quarter-finals in the FIBA 33 basketball tournament.
Both athletes, were joined by Singapore's ex-sprinter, Canagasabai Kunalan, and they spoke about their experience during the AYG, how they juggled studies and training, as well as their personal mottos in life.
"I simply did what I set out to do! Winning the bronze medal for Singapore felt really great and it was my personal best so it is great achievement for me," said 16-year-old Abel, who studies at Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School. He fired a total score of 685.6 and survived a late onslaught from South Korea's Kim Yong to claim the bronze medal for Singapore.
"I started shooting as a CCA in school. I just picked up a gun and felt it was right for me. Now, I train 4-6 times a week, with each training session lasting 3-4 hours each. Because of my intense training schedule, leisure time has to be cut back and it is only sports and study now," said Abel.
Jabez also has a similar success story. His dream, together with his teammates, was to reach the final eight stage of the AYG FIBA 33 basketball tournament. After losing to China in their opening match, their dream looked to be on the rocks, but two consecutive victories over Uzbekistan and India allowed them to achieve their goal. They eventually fell to bronze medallists South Korea in the quarter-finals.
"It was a great experience to play such great basketballers at the AYG. Our goal coming into the tournament was to reach the top eight and that was what we did! Although we had a physical disadvantage, the nation was our inspiration and motivation to play our best," said Jabez, a student at Catholic High School who is taking his O Levels this year. He specially took time to attend this event despite having his O Level preliminary examinations the next day.
"I think juggling sports and studies is the biggest challenge for student athletes. Just like Abel said, we have to give up leisure time, which means less computer time for me! But my school has been supportive of me and has made special arrangements so I can catch up on my studies as well as maintain my eight-time-a-week training schedule," said Jabez.
C. Kunalan, the ex-national record holder in the century sprint, echoed the need to support Singapore's young talents.
"Each athlete's goal is to win the gold medal, and sometimes you curse yourself for not working hard enough when you don't do so. Things don't go always the way you plan it, but there is always a next time. These student athletes have the passion and are willing to put in the time and effort to train, but they require support. Maybe the association should provide a car for each of them! Or maybe SMRT should provide special passes for them so that they can travel from home, to school, to the different training venues. These little things will go a long way towards supporting the student athletes."
The athletes rounded off the forum by sharing their personal mottos.
"Know what you want to do, believe in what you want to do, and do what you want to do!" exclaimed Abel.
"Giving your 100% is already a victory!" said Jabez.
After cutting a cake to mark the end of the AYG with Guest of Honour Oon Jin Teik, the chief executive officer of Singapore Sports Council, and the managing director of Nestle Singapore, Suresh Narayanan, the athletes played a basketball-themed game with students from Geylang Methodist School.
"I started shooting as a CCA in school. I just picked up a gun and felt it was right for me,” said AYG shooter Abel Lim. (Photo 2 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
“It was a great experience to play such great basketballers at the AYG! Our goal coming into the tournament was to reach the top eight and that was what we did!” said AYG basketballer Jabez Su. (Photo 3 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Olympian C Kunalan sharing his thoughts with the audience. “Maybe the association should provide a car for each of them! Or maybe SMRT should provide special passes for them so that they can travel from home, to school, to the different training venues. These little things will go a long way towards supporting the student athletes." (Photo 4 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
A cake was wheeled out to celebrate the end of the Asian Youth Games. From left to right: Abel Lim, Jabez Su, Mr Suresh Naranayan (MD, Nestle), Oon Jin Teik (CEO, SSC), Olympian C Kunalan. (Photo 5 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Jabez plays a game with students from Geylang Methodist School. (Photo 6 © Les Tan/Red Sports)
Abel Lim gets to dribble a basketball instead of shoot this time. (Photo 7 © Les Tan/Red Sports)