Fastest man's slow rise to the top

Fastest man's slow rise to the top

The common thread among the 309 Myanmar-bound Singapore athletes for the Dec 11-22 SEA Games is the journey of self-discovery they all embarked on to find out how good they are in their chosen sports.

The Straits Times will be tracing some of these athletes' journeys from their beginnings as diamonds in the rough to being well-trained competitors ready to battle for gold medals.

GARY YEO

THEN (2000) & NOW (2013)

FOR A man whose career is defined by seconds, it is not surprising that national sprinter Gary Yeo demands instant results.

A man this fast - 10.44sec over 100 metres - also expects everything else to be.

When he text messages his friends, he demands a reply within a minute. When he clicks on an Internet link, he demands that it loads instantly.

Cut across him on the roads, and one risks triggering that fiery temper of his - which is infamous among his close friends.

But, as the 27-year-old embarks on what could be his breakthrough SEA Games in Myanmar, he will be the first to admit that not everything can be achieved in a flash.

That is because his own track career was built over years of toil and rejection before it began to blossom.

Even as a pupil at St Andrew's Junior School, he knew what he wanted to be.

"I was never the tallest boy, but I wanted to be the fastest," he recalled.

But he was not among the fastest in his school. In fact, he never caught the eye of the school team selectors, and ended up spending most of his recess time kicking a plastic ball around.

When he entered Victoria School, he joined a talent scouting programme during his Secondary One initiation camp, hoping again to make the track squad.

He remembers running the 100m time-trial on a tarmac road. Again, he was overlooked. Said Yeo: "All along my thinking was that I was quite fast. So, when I didn't make it, I was quite disappointed."

He was, however, chosen for the hockey squad with whom he trained for a year.

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