By Les Tan/Red Sports
JCube Ice Rink, Monday, January 20, 2013 — 5am.
That’s the time Lea Ong, 8, hits the ice at Singapore’s only Olympic-sized rink. A 5am starts means the petite Lea is up by 4.15am.
The rink is a commercial venue, so skaters training under the auspices of the Singapore Ice Skating Association are restricted to very early or late evening time slots.
But you wouldn’t guess it’s 5am in the morning, judging by how chirpy the Primary 3 Henry Park student is.
“I’m turning 9 this year,” said Lea.
When asked what she enjoys about school, she says: “Maths.”
Because it’s easy? She nods her head vigorously.
“I like ice skating because when I go for competitions, I get medals,” said Lea, who is 1.22m in height and weighs all of 19kg. Lea has taken part in Skate Asia competitions held in Hangzhou and Bangkok.
Does she feel tired waking up so early?
“I like it!” was her immediate reply.
Her favourite part of ice skating is the warm up when she does the foot exercises.
“My favourite part is the stroking time every Sunday morning,” said Lea, who added that chicken rice is her favourite recess food.
In the stands sat Gian Bee Yoon, Lea’s mother. Mdm Gian was a picture of poise and alertness, despite the early hour.
“Lea got into the sport because her brother was in the sport,” said Mdm Gian who also brings Luke, Lea’s 12-year-old brother, for 5am starts on a Saturday morning.
“Lea wasn’t a strong kid. She would start and stop because of health problems. She would get the flu easily,” recalled Mdm Gian.
“I didn’t really push her. I dare not push her because we can’t afford to let her fall sick and miss school.
“But she enjoys it. It’s good for her to socialise with other kids,” said Mdm Gian.
When competitions approach, the training goes up to twice a week for Lea — two hours each on a Sunday and a Thursday morning. Lea and her mother have one eye on the upcoming National Championship on March 30th and 31st.
“She likes it. I tried to shift their interest to table tennis but she still comes back to skating. She comes back from a holiday and she’ll say, ‘Mom, when is our skating lesson?'” added Mdm Gian.
Interested to learn skating? SKATESTAR is a learn-to-skate program developed by the Singapore Ice Skating Association (SISA) in collaboration with the Singapore Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) to cultivate the sport of ice skating in Singapore. It is Singapore’s only national learn-to-skate program.