WHO says brawny types can’t look dashingly suave and mesmerisingly beautiful away from the sporting arena?
The New Paper plucked four Team Singapore athletes out of their comfort zones – all medallists at last year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos – for a makeover session.
Decked out in smart, chic wear and looking delectably glamorous, the quartet of good-lookers gamely struck poses for our fashion spread, as they regaled us with their plans for the year ahead.
No one would bat an eyelid if they were told that these were professional models handling just another day’s work.
Yes, go ahead and salivate, celebrate their successes and be inspired by their dreams.
2009 SEA Games showing: One silver medal (Women’s 9-ball pool singles)
IT took a massive setback to spur the 29-year-old cheerful, amicable lass on to win her silver medal at the SEA Games.
“I was totally devastated when I lost in the first round of the 8-Ball category,” she said.
“Being defeated brought me back to ground zero.
“I went back to basics, prepared myself better for the 9-Ball and regained my momentum.”
Charlene, who works in marketing for her family business, described her eventual second-place finish as a “great personal achievement”, for she bettered her previous results.
It was her third time participating in the bi-annual tournament. In 2005 she won a bronze but in 2007 she went home empty-handed.
She isn’t resting on her laurels, however.
“There are several international tournaments coming up, including the World Ladies 9-Ball Championship in China, and a 10-Ball competition in Manila,” said Charlene, who funds herself for most of her overseas trips.
“Of course, the next major goal for most of us would be November’s Asian Games in Guangzhou.”
Asked about her personal life, the single girl laughed and confessed to “having not much of a social life”.
“I practise every evening, as well as on the weekends, so apart from pool and work, I have only a little time left, which I leave for my laptop,” she said.
“It’s so convenient to buy everything online now, so I don’t even go shopping.”
She revealed that she did joke to her mum once that she would “settle down and get married after her second Asian Games”.
“I have to be realistic, I’m not young any more,” she said with a grin.
“Should the day come when I feel I’m unable to make any further breakthroughs in the sport, perhaps it would be time to take a break.”
CHAN KENG KWANG
2009 SEA Games showing: One bronze medal (9-Ball pool doubles)
THE boyish-looking 30-year-old Keng Kwang would be the first to admit to “feelings of disappointment” at his performance at last year’s SEA Games.
“I felt I could have done much better,” he said with a look of resignation.
“This year’s tournament threw me a surprise because they changed the playing format slightly, and I could not get used to it in time.”
The three-time SEA Games veteran has seen better days when it comes to garnering accolades.
In his debut outing in 2005, Keng Kwang bagged a gold medal in the singles category, as well as two bronzes in the doubles.
In the 2007 edition of the games, he won a silver in the doubles.
The bachelor hopes “more young players” will get into the game of competitive pool.
“It’s a popular recreational sport in Singapore, so hopefully, more youngsters will start playing competitively,” he said.
“Also, it’ll be great if more sponsors come in to boost our local scene.
“Currently, there are very few local tournaments and most of us players have to head overseas frequently to participate in the competitions there.”
Keng Kwang, who used to be a bartender, is also making inroads into playing pool professionally.
“I’m in the midst of working something out with the national cuesports association,” he said.
“Singapore hasn’t had any professional pool player before, so it’ll be a first in our sporting history if I do so.”
2009 SEA Games showing: One silver medal (Men’s 4 X 100m relay)
That was the feeling when 22-year-old Elfi and his relay team-mates returned after their victory at the SEA Games.
“There were a lot of people waiting for us at the airport. We didn’t know them personally, but they were clearly fervent supporters of Team Singapore,” said the shy, soft-spoken second-year economics undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.
“At that moment, I felt really proud to have represented my nation.”
He confessed he had to deal with tremendous pressure before the race, especially with the local athletics scene mired in controversy.
“Aside from Gary (Yeo), who was taking part in his second SEA Games, the three of us (himself, Lee Cheng Wei and Muhd Amirudin) were all rookies,” said Elfi.
“There were expectations on us to perform well and at times, it was pressurising.”
It didn’t help that before the Games, they had unexpectedly faltered in a couple of warm-up meets.
“We dropped the baton in one competition, and at another, our timing didn’t hit the mark, it was demoralising,” he said.
Thankfully, the hard work the team put in paid off at the all-important SEA Games race in Laos.
The tanned lanky dude, who also runs and plays football for NUS, is looking forward to the major competitions later this year – the Commonwealth Games in October and the Asian Games in November.
“It’s the off-season for athletics now, so when we have our centralised training once or twice a week, it’s mostly conducted in the form of games or activities, to help relax our muscles,” said Elfi.
“I’m an avid footballer, but football does change the mechanics of how I run, so I have to be extra careful, in order not to injure myself.”
Water polo player
2009 SEA Games showing: One team gold medal
HUNKY 25-year-old Kelvin is one busy man, who gets by with an average of “three to four hours of sleep” each day.
In addition to being part of the national water polo team – which won its 23rd consecutive SEA Games gold medal at last year’s competition in Laos – the first-year accountancy undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University has to juggle the demands of school assignments and projects.
“My life basically revolves around the swimming pool now,” said Kelvin, who is happily attached to his girlfriend of seven years.
“I train every evening on weekdays, and also on Saturday mornings. Thankfully, my girlfriend is understanding of my schedule.”
He described the euphoria of winning the gold medal at the SEA Games as akin to “striking lottery”.
“Our team is quite young and all of us want to uphold that amazing, unbeaten record,” he said.
“We didn’t start off our final match well. The Thais came at us very hard and it took us quite a while to stay focused and get a hold on ourselves.
“I’m very happy we came through. No one wants to make history by becoming the first team in more than 20 years to lose the title.”
But Kelvin is realistic about his team’s chances at the Asian Games.
“Teams like China and Kazakhstan are extremely strong and physical,” he said.
“Of course, it’ll be great to win at the Asian Games, but we are first setting an achievable target of beating other teams, such as Iran and South Korea, that are closer to our competitive standard.”
This article was first published in The New Paper.