Story by Joseph Lee/Red Sports
Benny Tan, 28, a bank officer by day, is part of the Singapore Judo contingent at the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
He is competing with teammate Soh Keng Chuan, 29, in the Nage no Kata, an event where throwing techniques are demonstrated.
Red Sports caught up with him before he left for the SEA Games to find out more about his judo journey.
Joseph Lee: What challenges have you faced heading into the SEA Games?
Benny: I work in a very dynamic environment in which it can be fairly difficult to plan my time ahead. At the same time, KC (Keng Chuan) being a medical doctor also has his responsibilities to cover. As a result, planning for adequate training sessions across various phases of our development have at times been difficult.
Given a limited amount of time as well as being more involved in training for the SEA Games means that family and friends have been put on the back burner. However I’ve been very lucky to have had both KC as a partner, and understanding and supportive family and friends.
Sometimes, emotions and physical fatigue from work and other fronts have also carried over into training, and it has been a challenge at times managing all of that, as in our division we have to be absolutely calm and alert.
As the Uke (receiver of techniques) I also get thrown a fair bit during training, and this has led to injuries at time. One challenge, as the case with all athletes, is to have the discipline to stop to recover when that happens.
What do you hope to achieve from this SEA Games?
Benny: I hope to be able to do my little part in reigniting the popularity of Judo in Singapore, as well as Kata as a division within the art. Additionally the competitive level of Judo Kata within SEA has been on the uptrend, and I would be happy to be able to contribute to that in our little way.
This being the first SEA Games, and the target we’ve been working towards all year, I certainly hope to make it on the podium, and give us a boost to continue training for the next 1.5 years thereafter in preparation for when SEA Games comes back to Singapore.
What was your training like in the lead up to the SEA Games?
Benny: Apart from our regular practice over the years, we’ve also had the opportunity to have a training stint in Japan, where we learnt from the instructors at the Kodokan – the home of Judo as we know it today. This has allowed us deeper insights into sharpening our techniques and correcting our mistakes.
Back home in Singapore we’re fortunate to have access to technology, and have worked using video recordings of our display to be able to self-critique. This is in addition to multiple regular trainings weekly.
What were your previous results?
Benny: Coming in tops for the second year running at the Thailand International Judo Championships 2013 was a great experience for us to hear our national anthem from the podium. We were also thrilled to have made the finals (top 6) at the continental level in the Asian Judo Kata Championships 2013.
It was an eye-opening experience to compete at the world stage in the World Judo Kata Championships 2013, where we finished ranked 15th among the very best in the world.
Benny: This is the first time we will be going, and it is also the first time that Singapore is competing in this event. On both accounts, we hope it’s just the beginning of greater things to come!
Who is your role model?
Benny: I haven’t got one specific role model in mind. Cliché as it sounds, I honestly believe that everyone has something to teach me, and I strive often during our interactions to find out what the lesson is. At the end of the day, each and every interaction is what you make of it.
When and how did you get started in your sport?
Benny: I was actually in the basketball team in Secondary 1, but moved to Judo the following year at the ‘request’ of my parents, as they felt that Judo seemed to be something more unique which I won’t be able to learn elsewhere. Luckily for me that they did!
Which school did you represent?
Benny: I started Judo in Balestier Hill Secondary School, before moving to Catholic Junior College. Thereafter I continued my Judo journey in Singapore Institute of Management.
What is your best school sport memory?
Benny: Insofar as Judo is concerned, I must admit I’m very much a late bloomer, and in my formative years was at best mediocre. However the time I spent serving as captain of the SIM Judo Club really left a deep impression in me, not because I was the leader, but because we were all so motivated to train hard despite being a small team then.
If you did not practise Judo, what other sport would you do?
Benny: I think I might have gone to play pool a little more seriously. There existed a time I was fascinated with the sport, to the extent I bought my own set of cues!
Any pre-event rituals?
Benny: I like to jog around the competition area to warm up, taking in and getting used to the sights and sounds – where the judges are sitting, where my teammates are. Ironically that helps me block out the distractions later on. I also like to meditate at a corner, visualising the kata performance – a controlled, beautiful, successful one – in my head, just before the warm-up period ends.
What is your biggest motivation?
Benny: One of the things I want to do is, of course, to ultimately bring back the SEA Games gold medal, which has been elusive to Singapore for awhile now. Judo as a sport in Singapore has declined in popularity a little in recent years, and I hope to be able to reignite the passion I know exists within some of the juniors I meet.
I also hope to show the people around me that it is indeed possible to manage work and competitive sports – you just need lots of patience and communication with those around you.
What is your favourite food?
Benny: It’s a beverage actually. The C Peng Siew Tai – Iced tea with evaporated milk, with less sugar. I don’t think I can do without it.
(Ok, I also love curry puffs, but that has toned down a little in recent years.)
Benny Tan Cheng Kiat Bio
DOB: December 10, 1985
Event: Judo (Nage no Kata)
World Judo Kata Championships 2013 – 15th
Asian Judo Kata Championships 2013 – 5th
Thailand International Judo Championships 2013 – 1st
Current Occupation: Bank Officer
All of us at Red Sports wish Keng Chuan and Benny all the best at the 2013 SEA Games! Do drop them a note of support in the comments section if you can. We’re sure they’ll appreciate it. You can also upload photos showing your support of Keng Chuan and Benny on Instagram using #ourteamsg, or on the Team Singapore campaign’s website: www.ourteamsg.com