Gymnastics first, please

Gymnastics first, please

Not many students in Singapore defer taking a major exam to pursue a sports dream, but Aizat Jufrie bucks the trend.

At the start of the year, the 18-year-old gymnast (right) from Raffles Institution decided to put off his 'A' Levels to next year and concentrate on the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Glasgow from July 23 to Aug 3.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Aizat joked: "I think if I took my A-Levels this year I'll be so screwed.

"I'm so far behind in my studies because I'm always overseas for training and competitions."

While his family, friends and teachers were fully behind his decision to put his 'A' Levels on hold, Aizat himself had reservations about his move.

"After I graduate, I will have two years of National Service, so I wasn't totally sure if dedicating another year just to train was a good idea.

"Especially when I saw how much fun my friends were having while I was putting in the hours at the gym. I have to say there were times I felt lonely."

Today, though, he has come to terms with the decision and is fully focused.

Aizat's pet disciplines are the vault and pommel horse.

Since his decision to concentrate on gymnastics, Aizat has won a bronze medal in the vault last month at the Commonwealth Gymnastics Invitational in Glasgow - a test event for July's Games - his first medal in senior competition.

"It was pretty intimidating to be around some of the best young gymnasts in the world, but it made me realise that I was good enough." Aizat paid tribute to his sister and fellow gymnast, Atika Nabilah Jufri, whom he describes as an inspiration.

Atika was part of the Singapore team that won a gold medal in the Artistic team event at the 2005 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Manila.

The 22-year-old, who is a full-time gymnastics coach at a private club, said: "I thought it was a bold move for him to defer his exams, but I've been in his shoes before, and I know how hard it can be balancing a sporting career and studies, so I was behind his decision.

"I knew he wanted to give up at one point, but his older brother and I convinced him that this was a chance he couldn't miss.

"We've supported him all the way because we know he loves the sport so much and we know he can make it big one day." The night before Aizat left Glasgow for home, he slept with his bronze medal.

And he did so for the first few nights he was at home, before hanging it proudly in his living room.

If he adds to the medal at this year's Commonwealth Games, it will probably not be up on the wall for a long time.

Aizat quipped: "If I win medals at such big Games, then I don't think I'll just hang them. I'd actually sleep with them around my neck every night."

This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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