By Jonathan Wong
THIS time last year, with a racket in his hand, Ng Choon Yeow was smashing shuttlecocks in an empty hall. Meanwhile, Joel Law was worrying about 7-10 splits on the bowling lanes.
Much has changed for the pair of 17-year-olds who have swopped strings and pins for barbells and weights. Lots and lots of weights.
It was a practical choice, explained Choon Yeow, about his decision to give up badminton.
'I was not the best and the chances of me participating in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) were very slim,' said the Republic Polytechnic student on Thursday. 'So I thought I'd give weightlifting a try and see if I could make it.'
Despite reservations about Choon Yeow's unconventional build for a weightlifter - he is 1.79m tall and weighs 69kg - national coach Wu Chonfu has been impressed with his progress.
'Thanks to his badminton training, his legs have that explosiveness needed for weightlifting,' Wu said in Mandarin.
Choon Yeow lifts a total of 149.5kg in the boys' 69kg category, clearing the selection criterion of 134kg set by the Singapore Weightlifting Federation (SWF) to be eligible for YOG nomination.
There is more satisfaction in this sport compared to bowling, said Joel, who has managed a 150kg total in the 62kg division.
'Every time you step onto the mat, you're trying to lift a heavier weight, and there's a real sense of accomplishment when you succeed,' he added. 'I never got that from bowling.'
Together with national teammate Jamie Wee, also 17, the trio will be competing in the junior division of the Singapore Open, which starts today.
Though relative novices - Jamie (girls' 58kg class) is the most experienced, having picked up the sport in March last year - the boys are looking to continue an unlikely journey when they step onto the stage at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall.
The two-day event will be used as a test event for the upcoming YOG and will feature about 30 lifters from countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Canada.
It is also the final selection event for local athletes ahead of the Aug 14-26 Games. The SWF intends to nominate one boy and one girl within the next fortnight.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.