Sasha Christian, 20, is one of Singapore’s top wakeboarders. In 2009, aged 16, Sasha finished as a champion at the 2009 Asian Wakeboard Championships. She also has the honour of being the first Singaporean to attract Red Bull as a sponsor.
Sasha was also recently awarded the Sports Excellence Scholarship (SpexScholarship) from the Singapore government to allow her to train full time, the only wakeboarder on the list of 66 athletes who won the scholarship. The scholarship is overseen by the Singapore Sports Institute.
As it turned out, Sasha, who is graduating from Republic Polytechnic in 2014, got the news of her scholarship while in the middle of her internship with Red Sports. So instead of being the photojournalist she is and interviewing others, she found herself at the end of some questions for this interview.
Les Tan: You recently received the SpexScholarship. What was your reaction?
Sasha: I was very excited and surprised when I received the news. I knew there were quite a number of people who had applied and I wasn’t sure of my chances. It’s nice to know they see wakeboarding as a sport with potential. I re-read the email over again and over again and finally told my mom.
Tell me more about the scholarship. How it works and the process of applying for it.
Sasha: My federation (Singapore Waterski and Wakeboard Federation) nominated me for the scholarship and then the shortlisted candidates were asked to go for an interview. From there, the panel made their decision.
You recently came back from your first serious injury. What injury was it and how did you get injured?
Sasha: Yeah, I sprained my knee last September trying a new trick. I took three months off but because my knee was still a little weak, I sprained it three times after, the last time was in May.
What was the rehab like for you?
Sasha: I went to the Singapore Sports Council for rehab. The last injury took me out for three and a half months so I spent most of the time there, doing stability and strengthening work. I also started doing pilates and that helped a lot too.
What was it like hitting the water again after you got the all-clear?
Sasha: The moment I was behind the boat again, it felt right. My knee finally felt good and strong. I had enough of being off the water because of my knee so I really took it easy for the first month. I’m still slowly getting all my tricks back. All has been good since.
So when did you start wakeboarding and how did you get started on it?
Sasha: I started waterskiing when I was 3 and switched to wakeboard when I was 6. My mom waterskis so my brother and I used to go with her down to Kallang River. According to mom, we wanted to give it a go.
What are your earliest memories of wakeboarding?
Sasha: That’s a hard one … I can remember wakeboarding in a very fashionable striped orange swimsuit waving to the people in the boat and touching the water. Those were my two favorite tricks. And the only tricks I had.
What is it you love about wakeboarding?
Sasha: When I wakeboard, all previous thoughts or worries disappear and my mind is concentrated solely in the moment where I hit the wake and execute a trick. When I’m happy, I wakeboard. When I’m sad, I wakeboard. Wakeboarding is always there for me.
What are the misconceptions about wakeboarders you’ve encountered?
Sasha: I haven’t come across any major misconceptions that stand out. Usually when I tell people I wakeboard, they respond along the lines of ‘that’s cool’, which is a good thing.
In what way has wakeboarding changed your life?
Sasha: I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I hadn’t wakeboarded. Wakeboarding has taught me so much along the way. From how to deal with pressure to being responsible and disciplined.
You studied in the Singapore Sports School. Tell us about your experience studying and training there.
Sasha: I joined the Sports School in 2006. My mom and I always agree that it was the best decision we’ve made. For the first time in my life, I was enjoying school and was surprisingly doing fairly well in class. I had great teachers and was surrounded by wonderful friends there. With the school’s schedule, I was able to wakeboard four times a week during the weekdays and I’d go for strength and condition training three times a week. The support we received there was amazing and I’ll always be thankful I was able to experience it.
You are one of only two Singapore athletes to be sponsored by Red Bull. How did that come about?
Sasha: I’ve been with Red Bull since October 2010. It came as a surprise actually. One day I received a call out of nowhere from Red Bull Singapore telling me that the HQ approved. I was going to be an official Red Bull athlete. It was surreal.
What are the memorable experiences as a Red Bull sponsored athlete?
Sasha: Going to the Red Bull Diagnostics and Training center in Salzburg, Austria. They ran all kinds of test on me there. I went in thinking I was pretty fit and left with results that showed otherwise. I learnt so much that I could take back with me to improve in my sport. During that trip, I also got visit cool places like the Red Bull Salzburg Stadium.