SINGAPORE: Singaporean speed skater Cheyenne Goh may be used to training at a more forgiving time back in Canada, where she has been living since she was eight.
But here in Singapore, preparing for the Olympics means waking up in the wee hours to make it for training at 5am at JCube’s ice rink.
The 18-year-old will then get two hours of ice time alongside her national team-mates, before the Zamboni comes in to smooth over the ice at 7am for the national figure skaters to get their time on the rink.
That is her usual routine as she trains six times a week, for four hours each day. In addition to her two hours of ice time, she does an additional four hours of other training every day.
For Goh, this effort has already paid off. She will be Singapore’s first Winter Olympian when she takes to the ice at the Gangneung Oval, at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics next February.
“I’m definitely excited and happy to be making it to the Olympics. It is an incredible experience to know that I will be racing some incredible athletes in winter sports for the Games and against the best skaters in the world,” said Goh.
“It’s definitely been a long term dream of mine, so I’m really, really happy that I have this opportunity this early in my career,” she added.
BALANCING SCHOOL AND COMPETITIONS
Having graduated from high school this year, Goh is taking a break from academics to focus on her Olympic push. “After my exams I decided to take a gap year, and so this is it right now.
“The plan is to get back to school next September,” she said.
The Singaporean teen will be competing in the women’s 1,500m event, having qualified last month after earning enough points to make it into the top 36 in the world.
She earned her PyeongChang 2018 spot after competing at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup Short Track Speed Skating series, which were qualifiers for the Winter Games.
There were four World Cup events which took place from September to November this year, and they were held in Hungary, Netherlands, China and South Korea.
“The qualifying process involves points you get from three or four world cup events,” said Goh. “For me, at the third world cup in Shanghai, two people crashed out and one person was disqualified.
“I later ended up getting top two going into the semi-finals. Because of the points I got, I had enough to make the cut into the world’s top 36 and made it to the Olympics.”
Goh also won three medals in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in August – silvers in the 1,000m individual and 3,000m relay, as well as a bronze in the 500m individual race.
“Participating in the SEA Games was such an incredible opportunity since it was the first time that it has been included in the event,” she said. “It was such a milestone for short track to be included as well in Southeast Asia.”
A FORMER ICE HOCKEY PLAYER
As a fan of National Hockey League (NHL) team the Calgary Flames back in Canada, it was only natural that Goh started out as an ice hockey player in her formative years.
“I used to play ice hockey, but I always enjoyed the skating part of the sport more than the puck handling,” said Goh.
“However, after watching the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, my father suggest that I should give speed skating a try.
“So in 2012, I finally agreed to give it a shot and that year I realised that I enjoyed it even more than hockey and I decided to pursue the sport further,” she recalled.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
As the best speed skater in Singapore, Goh is hoping to gain as much experience as possible in Pyeongchang. “I’m just hoping that I can improve as much as I can leading up to the Olympics,” she said.
“The fact that I’m seeing improvements as I skate more, definitely motivates me to keep on training.
“I think the speed, the thrill of racing against other people, plus the tactical aspect of it all, is definitely very exciting for me,” added Goh.
Her coach Chun Lee Kyung hopes the 18-year-old will enjoy her Olympic debut and not be bogged down by high expectations. “To be there is already a milestone for the Singapore team,” said coach Chun.
“I’m sure it is a massive thing for her, a turning point in her career. Just participating in the Winter Olympics is already such an important achievement.
“But nevertheless we will try hard and prepare well for her Olympic race.”