Above and Beyond – a National Athlete’s Commitment in Growing Sport

By Dylan Mah


Photo credit: Richard Seow

There was nothing short of a pleasant surprise for the national high jumper, Michelle Sng, when over 40 participants turned up for the 2nd Singapore High Jump Series event she had organised in June. The occasion saw attendees execute exclusively the “Scissors Jump” technique – a much less challenging approach than the “Fosbury Flop” favoured by seasoned competitors for its biomechanical efficiency.

“The scissors jump is more easily learnt and levels the competition field for novices,” said Sng, who also admitted the technique was not her forte. “The point of the competition was for people to understand the high jump and encourage participation.”

Successful Comeback
The sport was in a clear need for increased participation and representation in Singapore at the elite level.

Convinced by her coach to train for the 28th Southeast Asian Games, Sng came out of retirement in 2013, for another shot medal glory.

“I realised nothing much had changed since I first retired in 2010,” she bemoaned. “There was only one other girl representing Singapore, whose personal best was 1.65m.”

After more than a year of training, the national record holder of 1.84m would go on to clinch the bronze medal at the biennial regional competition.

Fielding a Tough Challenge
As Singapore continues to pack its calendar with more mega sporting events such as the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and Sport Singapore, making sport more accessible through its ActiveSG initiatives, certain sport can still use a helping hand.

“Technical events in general tend to require a coach’s supervision for trainings to be more effective,” commented the 29-year-old. “During our free time, we can’t just slip on our shoes and go for a run. It takes about 20 minutes to set up the equipment, another 20 minutes to take it down – and without a training partner, it’s difficult to motivate yourself.”

A concern for its future prompted Sng to take matters into her own hands to promote the sport; her plans for the near future includes partnering schools and clubs in organising events, formalising her team as a business entity, seeking a sanction from the Singapore Athletics Association and opening up future competitions to regional athletes and the public.

A Leg Up for Top Athletes
When asked about her value proposition in organising events as an elite athlete, Sng suggested: “As athletes, we understand the standards we’d expect in competitions. At our event, we had a technical officer, a GoPro at the crossbar to review our jumps, a timer and flags – it was fun and professional.”

She went on enthusiastically and recounted an event in Germany, citing an innovation she could adapt.

“Every athlete had their music of choice play as they started their run-up. It was motivating for the athletes and entertaining for the spectators.”  

Keeping the Ball Rolling
Sng hopes to bolster continuity when athletes complete their studies, indicating the lack of training groups and competitions led to the attrition of talents.

Applauding the efforts of the Singapore Sports Institute in amplifying her training efforts through sport sciences, she stated the lack of results can be attributed to the small number of high jumpers in the first place and the appeal of pursuing a stable career rather than the infrastructure.

Hope is not lost however, at least for the teacher-athlete.

“It is not that sport in Singapore isn’t progressing,” she explained. “Perhaps our neighbours within the region are advancing at a faster pace – but things are improving here.”

Sng recalled the time when she first picked up the sport, printing out notes found on the internet that detail the high jump techniques and engaging in self-learning. 

“There are many more top competitions now like the Youth Olympic Games and Asian Youth Games,” she remarked. “Parents are taking a more proactive role in seeking out coaches, especially those who are hoping for their children to enter through the Direct School Admission scheme. Some of them even wrote to me on Instagram. All the increase in demand is good for the sport.”

Forging Ahead
Despite facing some pressure from taking over her coach’s role in grooming the next generation, the driven athlete dismissed the idea, reinforcing her commitment to competing at the highest level. However, she believes she can contribute to the sport scene by making good use of her voice as an elite athlete.

As she continues to champion her sport in her own ways, Sng hoped her younger compatriots would step up their efforts in promoting and giving back to their sport.  

“It was difficult to start but now that I have, the younger athletes just have to keep the ball rolling,” she encouraged. “As an athlete, you train in order to compete. We should all take the initiative to grow the sport we love.”

 

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