Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Golden Future for Singapore Gymnastics?

At 15, she was picked to be Captain of China's Gymnastics team, a role she played for three years, from 1994 to 1996. When the formidable Chinese team headed to the 1996 Atlantic Olympic Games, she captained that team.

To the Chinese people, this slip of a girl will also be remembered for winning Gold in the 1994 Asian Games. What few people know is that 2 days prior to the Games, she tore 2 tendons and was in excruciating pain. But she bandaged her leg, gritted her teeth, and stepped out into the competition arena, with her head held high.

Her mother cried when she watched her daughter on national TV back in China. But this spunky girl not only survived the gruelling competition unscathed, she went on to win the Gold Medal as All-Round Individual Champion.

Qiao Ya is somewhat a national hero back in China, but did you know that this inspiring young woman has made Singapore her home since 1998? Well, in The Living Room today, my guest-host Joel Chua & I had the pleasure of chatting with this dynamo, who is currently Head of Coaching (High Performance) at Raffles Gymnastics Academy, producing many local champions in her wake.

Since her arrival, Qiao Ya has coached over 800 children, aged 3 to 18, in competitive & recreational gymnastics here. She's now building up an international team of coaches at Raffles Gymnastics to empower our Singapore youth to live their dreams.

"As a coach, how similar are you to the coaches you trained under back in China?" asked Joel, who had watched some rather disturbing TV documentaries on the extreme conditions & training regimes the young Chinese athletes have to endure.

"I want to make gymnastics fun and positive for the kids, not like what I went through. I still have nightmares about stretching!" Qiao Ya chuckles good-naturedly. "But while I update my teaching methods from the West, I still believe that Asian attitudes and values like discipline have an important place in training. And both East and West can go well together!"

Talking Gymnastics: [L to R] Leslie, Pam, Charmaine, Qiao Ya, Joel.

Also joining us on the couch today is Founder & CEO of Raffles Gymnastics Academy & Gymnastic Kidz, Leslie Yeo, who is a father of three. His lovely daughters - aged 9, 12 and 14 - are all gymnasts. In fact, it was their keen interest in the sport that spurred him to set up training schools here in Singapore.

His 12-year-old Charmaine Yeo joined in the chat as well. Don't be fooled by her slight frame or quiet demeanor! This chilipadi, who recently completed her PSLE at Nanyang Primary School, won the 'Sports Girl of the Year' award, and is now progressing to Raffles Girls School. At the recent 2009 National Inter-school Gymnastics Championships, she walked away with the Individual All-Round Gold Medal!

Well, if you're keen to find out more about gymnastics, there are trial classes at Raffles Gymnastics next month. It's open to the public, and admission is free*.

Gymnastics Trial Sessions
Fri 15 Jan, 2010
7pm & 8pm
Raffles Gymnastics Academy
The Salvation Army Sports Centre @ Upper Bukit Timah

*Registration required.
Find out more from their website.

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