Monday, December 01, 2014

Supporting our children in their sporting endeavours

I came across this TV commercial over the weekend and vividly remember my conversation with a friend about our future athletics talents.

Her son studied at a junior college in Woodlands, which was quite far from where they lived. She complained about her son having to spend many hours after school playing hockey, so by the time he got home, it was already quite late and it left him with little time for his studies.

“Then you should fetch him from school”, I said. “I fetch my son from his kayaking training four times a week. That would help him to save some travelling time.”
“What?” she exclaimed; “No way.” Apparently the work schedules of both parents were too demanding for them to do that.

“Well, if you want your son to excel in both sports and studies, you have to make some sacrifices.” was all I could say.
I believe that last statement of mine summarizes what I feel about the importance of parental support for sports excellence in our children. It is very difficult for children to excel in both sports and studies. Usually, when a choice has to be made, studies will come first. That’s the reality of life in Singapore, even though much has changed as compared to one generation ago. As such our children need all the support they can get.

While our children’s own discipline and passion, and their innate God-given abilities are crucial for success in sports, there is no denying that other factors do play a part; such as the support that they get from their school, teachers and parents. Hence, I would like to share with you my son's journey in competitive sports, and the supporting role my wife and I played.
A shot of our son in action during the 2006 Inter-School Canoeing Championships at the MacRitchie Reservoir.
My son took up canoeing as a sport in Secondary One in Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). I remember he was not able to gain a place in the more popular sports like badminton or soccer and ended up in a sport that few people chose. Canoeing was not popular because training was conducted outside of the school’s premises, at the Singapore Dragon Boat Association premises at the Kallang River; and thus incurred much travelling. The school was kind enough to provide transport to the SDBA after school, but I had to fetch him back after his training sessions late in the evening.
Today, exactly ten years later, he is in his final year of studies at the National University of Singapore, and is still participating in competitive kayaking (his specialty), albeit at a much less intense level than at one stage when he made it to the national team. At that time, he had to train something like four or five times a week at either the MacRitchie Reservoir or Kallang River. I could see that it was very tough for him to balance his time between his studies and kayaking as well as his youth fellowship activities in church. After each training session, he would be exhausted and in bed by ten-something. The next morning, he would get to school early (by bus) in order to sneak in some workout time in the school gym. He was perpetually tired. Every time he was in my car, he would doze off. And I heard that there were numerous occasions when he missed his bus stop because he fell asleep in the bus.

My own philosophy is simple. If he has the ability and the aptitude, I will try my best to support him and help him to go as far as he could. Fortunately I was self-employed and thus my work schedule was flexible. Financially, my wife and I were blessed to be able to afford a family car. Besides these regular training sessions, there were a number of occasions when I had to fetch him to faraway places like Pasir Ris or Changi when he took part in the Round Pulau Ubin Marathon or to Bedok Reservoir for the Dragon Boat races.

My wife and I with our son who represented Singapore at the inaugural Canoe Marathon World Championships at the Marina Bay in 2011.
He (extreme left) partnered another boy from NUS to clinch the silver behind another Singapore team in the K2 event in the Asian countries category of the 2011 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships.
The TV commercial dramatically captures the sacrifices and hard work that all athletes have to put in to pursue their sporting dreams, just like my son. I would like to share some thoughts about what we can do to further encourage sporting excellence in Singapore. I refer especially to sports at the school level, which of course is the foundation for sporting excellence at the national level.
I do not know about other schools, but I believe my son was fortunate in that he went to a school that did a lot to encourage their students to excel in sports. As such the logistical support they provided was very good. For example, the equipment in kayaking is not cheap; but as parents we were never asked to contribute financially. Furthermore, the school, as a whole, gave incentives by awarding students who did well in sports and studies. Most importantly, the teachers were very dedicated and the sportsmen got much support in and outside of the classroom. It was really to the credit of the teacher in charge and the coach, and of course the students themselves, that their canoeing team fared as well as they did.

The other factor, which I felt could be demoralizing to our young sportsmen, is the meagre attention that the media give to local sports. Often we see pages and pages of news about English football, and hardly any mention of major local sports events at the schools level.

The media of course takes the cue from the public; and that’s when it comes back to each of us. As a population, let us try harder to encourage our athletes.  And the best time to do it is now. Did you know that Singapore will be hosting the 28th South East Asian Games in June next year? As our athletes train and try to do the nation proud, let us come together as #OneTeamSG and cheer as ONE NATION, ONE TEAM SINGAPORE, to inspire our young men and women who carry the Singapore torch. .
This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bus stops quiz

I like to take pictures of bus stops in Singapore. Here are 5 from my collection. Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are fairly common. But how about 4 and 5? Have you seen them before? Do you know where I took them?
No. 6 is a 1970s bus stop at Bukit Timah 7th Mile, near Beauty World. This photo is from the National Archives collection.

At Margaret Drive

I have seen another unique design in Jurong Island. But I dare not stop my car to take a photo for fear of being questioned by the security personnel. If you have such a photo, please share with me. There’s another one at Old Choa Chu Kang Rd that I have seen on Facebook. One of these days, when I am in the area, I will take a photo. Hope I’m not too late.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Memories of Queensway Shopping Centre

It is sad to see many parts of Queenstown that I have been visiting for decades disappear one by one. When I was living in Farrer Road, I often went to Queenstown for my shopping and leisure needs.

Even after I got married and moved to nearby Sixth Avenue, my family continued to go there regularly. Among the places that we frequented were the wet market at Tanglin Halt, Queenstown Library, the NTUC Fairprice Supermarket and Big Bookshop at Margaret Drive, Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, Tah Chung Emporium, the BP petrol station at Queensway and Queensway Shopping Centre. Most of these places have disappeared but Queensway Shopping Centre is still a landmark in that part of Queenstown; but I suspect that its days are numbered.

My earliest memory of Queensway Shopping Centre was in the mid-1970s when I was still doing my National Service. I remember going to a Malay barber who was operating from some makeshift stalls at the fringe of Rumah Bomba Circus just before returning to camp on Sunday evening. I think, at that time, Queensway Shopping Centre had not been built yet. Subsequently, after Queensway Shopping Centre was completed, these stalls moved into the complex and I continued to patronize the Malay barbers there. But when my favourite barber, a quiet, gentle old man by the name of Din retired, I stopped going.

Besides the barbers, I also became a regular customer of a tailor there called Benz Tailor until today. I cannot recall how I came to know this shop which is run by a gentleman by the name of Simon. 

During my NS days in Mandai Camp, our S1 (Manpower Officer), a Lieutenant Tay introduced us to a spectacles shop there run by his relative. Other than that, there are the famous photocopy shops on the third floor.

At one time when LDs were the rage, I signed up a membership with a video rental shop at the 3rd floor. Subsequently, the shop closed and moved out before I could redeem all my coupons. Also on the 3rd floor was Christian book store. I bought some books and CDs here. And I also bought some CDs from a shop on the ground floor; including this Bread CD.

There was also a Jumbo Coffee House on the 3rd floor which served pretty good western meals. You can see the name of the restaurant in big letters on the glass window facing Queensway. 

When I was working at the National Productivity Board in Bukit Merah Central, I had to pass by the Queensway Shopping Centre on the way home. Sometimes, I would stop here to buy some kueh tutu and muah chi for my children to snack at night.  It’s fun to watch them prepare the snack. Makes one feel like a kid again.

Another thing I remember about the Queensway Shopping Centre was the basement carpark. The layout of the parking lots were rather strange, like in concentric circles. The entrance is from Queensway and the exit is at Alexandra Road. Exiting the carpark is rather difficult especially if you drove a manual gear car as you have to stop for a long time for the heavy traffic at Alexandra Road.

Today, I seldom go to Queensway Shopping Centre. I feel out of place there with the many shops selling sports goods and shoes and the loud funky music. Still I will miss the place when they finally demolish it.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Here one day, gone the next (Braddell Rise School compound)

It’s finally happened! They’ve completely demolished the buildings that once housed my beloved primary school – the Braddell Rise School.

 Although Braddell Rise School itself had ceased to exist for a number of years now; having moved to Toa Payoh and adopted a different name, the old buildings had been retained and housed a number of different welfare homes such as the Minds Tampines Home, and the Society of Moral Charities. Hence, over the years, whenever I drive past this place; especially when I was on the MacRitchie Viaduct, I could catch a glimpse of my alma mater where I enjoyed many fond childhood memories.

Sorry, the date on the new photos should be 29/8/2014
Still I am comforted by two facts. One, the buildings were not torn down to make way for another condo; but for the expansion of its neighbour, the Assisi Hospice. Two, they had not done this earlier. When I first blogged about BRS in November 2005,  I speculated that when they started building the MacRitchie Viaduct, they certainly would have to clear this piece of land. But to my pleasant surprise, they did not; and over the years, I was able to visit it a few times. And in fact just last year, I was there with my friend James Seah for a photo shoot for an article in the Straits Times.

Still, I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness when I pass by this place now and take a habitual glance towards where BRS once stood and realize the harsh reality of life in Singapore. We simply have no room for sentimentality on the little island ‘paradise”.

PS – You can read more about my memories of BRS, as well as those of my classmates Kim Aii Chan and Lee Sock Gek in my book, Good Morning Yesterday.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Golden Hairpin

When I was very young, our family’s favourite pastime was watching black and white Cantonese kungfu movies at the South Country (Lam Kok) Theatre in Kampong San Teng. This was in the 1950s. One movie that I cannot forget is The Golden Hairpin (碧血金钗). After more than half a century, all I remember about this movie, other than the title, is that the lead role was played by a popular Hong Kong film star by the name of Cheong Ying Choi (张英才) .

And the reason I cannot forget this movie is that I never got to know its ending. You see; this movie was a bit like the Lords of the Ring trilogy. Hence, after watching the first episode, we had to wait patiently for months before the next episode became available. I remember that after watching 2 (maybe it was 3) episodes, I was waiting eagerly to catch the grand finale …… but it never came! I waited and waited; but I never learnt how the story ended. How frustrating! (But, actually, it was not difficult to guess the ending, because it was one of those typical “kill villain and avenge si-fu’s death” type of story.

Anyway, thanks to YouTube, I am now able to find ‘closure’ because I discovered that somebody has actually uploaded all 4 episodes. In fact, in the comments section, one viewer expressed his gratitude because like me, he too did not see the final episode. Unfortunately, after more than fifty years; I have totally forgotten the story. And hence, if I wanted to know the ending; I have to go back to the beginning. Well, like we Singaporeans are fond of saying; “Where got time?”.

Nevertheless, out of curiosity, I did watch a few minutes of the beginning and was thrilled to see the names of many actors that I had not seen for ages; such as Chan Hou Kow (陈好逑) and Si-ma Wah Lung (司马华龙).  Anyway, if you have more patience than me; here you are. Enjoy.