Special Programme in Science (SPS)

SPS Alumnus wins Silver Medal at 28th SEA Games

Photo credits: John Chan

The 28th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) was held from 5th-16th June 2015, and was one of the largest regional sporting events held in 2015. This was Singapore's fourth time hosting the SEA Games, and Team Singapore put up a splendid performance, winning medals from 33 out of 36 games (84 golds, 73 silvers, 102 bronze medals) and breaking 25 Games records, 29 national records, and 74 personal records.

We are proud to announce that one of our SPS Alumnus, Tan Chin Chuen (Life Science, Class of 2015) represented Singapore in the 28th SEA Games, and won Singapore's first Canoeing medal in the C-2 200m event in the SEA Games.

We asked Chin Chuen for a short interview about his experience in the SEA Games, and how he juggles his academic workload and non-academic commitments.

1. Hi Chin Chuen! Tell us more about yourself, and your academic and non-academic interests.

My name is Chin Chuen and I'm currently in my final year, majoring in Life Sciences. Aside from canoeing, I enjoy playing video games, and reading fiction books. Currently, I have a huge interest in basic science research; my FYP project has largely been my main source of inspiration.

2. What is Sprint Canoe about, and why did you choose to pick it up? How long have you been training, either for leisure or competitively?

Basically, in the sport of sprint canoeing, paddlers compete on flatwater bodies for a distance which includes 200m, 500m and 1000m. The canoe can be described as a light, narrow open boat that is propelled by one, two or four paddlers from a kneeling position. Unlike the kayakers, we use only a single-bladed paddle to paddle exclusively on one side of the boat. Hence, one of the biggest challenges I face competing is keeping straight within the lanes.

I picked up the sport when I was 17 years old. Back then, it was my first year in JC and I just wanted to join a sport to keep fit. So far, I have paddled for a total six odd years now; I took a break during my army days. Eventually, I hope to see myself paddling for as long as my body can take the beating.

3. How do you juggle your academic workload and your non-academic commitments, especially since the year leading up to the SEA games was also the final year in university and the year you had to do your Final Year Project?

For me, juggling school and SEA Games took more than just good time management. Looking back at my journey, I now truly believe that having a strong conviction is the single most important factor because it determines the amount of motivation and confidence that I want to instill in myself for the pursuit of my ambitions. I knew that I wanted to do well for my studies and qualify for the SEA Games all at the same time. Hence, I was compelled to put that into action by drafting a thorough plan; I made sure that sufficient time was allocated for each of my activities, and I get sufficient rest and nutrition. Certainly, some sacrifices had to be made but I don't regret them now.

4. How was it like during the time leading up to the SEA games? How did you overcome any hardships you faced (if any), in the course of your preparation for the games?

Six months prior to the SEA Games, I had just returned from the U.S. upon the completion of my NOC programme. I had not been training proper for a good year and it was almost certain that I would not be able to return to my top form, in time for the final selections. Those initial days were filled with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and helplessness. Fortunately, I had my teammates to train along my side and constantly reminding me of my capabilities. My turning point was the Inter-Tertiary Canoeing Championships held in March where I won both of my C1 and C2 200m races. From there, I had not looked back since. I joined the national team and continued my training under my current coach, qualifying and eventually performing well for the SEA Games.

5. How did it feel when you crossed the finishing line?

It was a fantastic feeling, especially knowing at that very instance that my partner and I had finished in podium position. At the same time, there was an inevitable sense of anguish after noticing our rival's boat tipping across the finish line earlier in just a fraction of a second.

6. What are your future aspirations after graduating from NUS and SPS?

I'm aiming to enter graduate medical school to become a clinician-scientist.

7. Any advice you want to give to juniors/anyone interested in research and/or sports?

For research and sports alike, it is very helpful to have an open mind. Consider all the possibilities, even if they might sound seemingly ridiculous. Sometimes, the person who succeeds is the one who had dared challenge the impossible. Finally, never forget to have fun.

We are very proud of you, Chin Chuen, and we hope that you will go forth to pursue your passions, and continue to dream big!