Singapore Sports School's promising new student-athletes

Singapore Sports School's promising new student-athletes
POTENTIAL: Yasmeen Marie Lutfi switched to hurdles only in 2013 after starting her athletics career in the jumps.

LEAPS AND BOUNDS — BIG THINGS EXPECTED OF HURDLER YASMEEN

She had literally stumbled at the first hurdle in her 80m hurdles heat, but still recovered to finish second in that race.

Later that day at the National Primary Schools Track and Field Championships last year, Yasmeen Marie Lutfi even pulled her hamstring while warming up for the final.

But she still went on claim the bronze medal in the Girls' B Division race, as well as in the long jump.

What was even more amazing about that feat was that she had taken up hurdling only at the end of 2013, having specialised in long and high jumps earlier in her primary school years.

With just a few months of training in the highly-technical event, the 12-year-old won her first-ever hurdles race last February, at the Singapore Sports School-Singapore Athletic Association Primary Schools Invitational Track and Field Meet.

"I was a bit nervous because the other hurdlers all had two or three years of training in the event, whereas I had just started," said the soft-spoken girl, who just started Secondary 1 at the Singapore Sports School (SSP) this week.

RELIEF

"It was a real relief that I won the race but, of course, I was very happy as well to have clocked 13.64 seconds."

She was selected for Temasek's athletics squad after the school's internal trials at the end of her Primary 2 year, and initially did high and long jumps.

But she dropped high jump after Primary 3, after developing a "phobia" for the event which prevented her for executing her jumps properly.

Yasmeen, who also ran for their relay team, then tried hurdling at her school coach's suggestion, and loved it immediately.

"I was already doing relays, so running wasn't awkward for me, it was actually quite fun," said the petite girl, whose active childhood included snorkelling, contemporary dance and camping.

With a Primary School Leaving Examination T-Score of 273, the 1.62m-tall former Temasek Primary School pupil could have her pick of secondary schools, but chose the Woodlands-based institution after attending the pre-admission interview.

Yasmeen said: "(SSP) wasn't really one of my choices.

"But they invited me down for an interview and explained to me how I could manage my timetable to do both studies and sports well, and I got quite excited."

"After the interview, it was an easy decision to make," added the only child of lawyer Lutfi Hussin, 48, and office manager Vanessa Zehnder, 46.

Zehnder, the daughter of renowned local athletics coach Patrick, and a former school hurdler herself, is well aware that the local athletics scene is not as successful as it was in 60s or 70s.

But she and her husband still gave their child their blessings to pursue excellence in the sport.

Zehnder said: "Things change; in my time there was no such thing as a Sports School but, now there is, and they have tie-ups with various organisations.

"If we don't try, we'd never know (how far she can go)."

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