Mum's here, for life

Mum's here, for life
Former national gymnast and now violin teacher Eileen Chai realised her mum, Madam Yu Yang Hua (both above), will always be there for her only in her 20s, after she entered a marriage that ended in divorce.

Most people go through a rebellious phase in their teens.

Ex-national gymnast Eileen Chai, unusually, had hers when she was an adult - at the age of 23 - when she decided to go against her parents' wishes and marry a man she had dated for just three months.

Her mother, Madam Yu Yang Hua, 67, recalls: "Back then, I kept asking myself why she had to wait till she was in her 20s to rebel, rather than at 16 or 17 years old, when I could at least have had more say over her life."

Ms Chai, now 36, says her impulsive decision to marry was motivated by a desire to lead a life on her own without having to rely on her parents. "My parents, especially my mum, have done so much for me in my life that I felt like I owed them too much. I wanted to run away and be independent."

She did not speak to them in the first two years of her marriage. In the third year, she divorced her first husband. Last year, she married Mr Ben Kranen, 50, a flavourist from Holland, after dating him for two years and receiving the blessings of her parents.

Her sudden act of defiance with her first marriage was unexpected, for she was a high achiever as a child.

She took violin, ballet, Chinese dance, piano and gymnastics classes before becoming a competitive gymnast at six. At seven, she participated in the 1985 South-east Asian Games. She won a bronze medal six years later at the SEA Games in Manila when she was 13.

At 16, she ventured into competitive diving, before completely retiring from sports when she was 17 years old.

She returned to the sports scene nine years later - as a track and field athlete. A year after that, in 2005, she broke the national 100m hurdles record for women that had been held for 30 years. She retired from sports again in 2006 and became a full-time violin teacher in 2011.

Ms Chai, who has a bachelor's degree in microbiology, has written a biography, Teach A Life, For Life, which was launched last month. It is available at major bookstores and her website (www.eileenchai.com) at $19.90.

She says: "I wrote this book because I hope people will be inspired by the lessons I have learnt to reflect on themselves as well, and make good of their present and future."

Her father Chai Chiap Fam, 72, is a businessman who is based in Suzhou, China, and she has two older brothers.

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