S'pore team bags 3 golds, 2 silvers at 'Skills Olympics'

It was a contest that the 19-year-old had trained very hard for in the last two years.

Then, on the third day of the WorldSkills competition in Leipzig, Germany, Nanyang Polytechnic student Jason Soh could barely keep awake and that affected his performance.

"I was really tired as I did not get much sleep the past few nights," said the third-year information security student, who was required to set up network solutions, such as e-mail systems. "I was very careless.

I even misread the question and did some tasks wrongly."

But last Saturday, the fourth and final day of the contest, he picked himself up and bagged the coveted gold in the IT Network Systems Administration category. It was the seventh straight time since 2001 that Singapore won in that category.

The biennial competition, organised by non-profit group WorldSkills International, aims to promote vocational training and education. This year, 1,007 competitors from 53 countries took part in what was its biggest competition yet.

Singapore also sent its largest team of 22, picked from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the five polytechnics here. They competed in 20 categories.

The team won two more golds in Beauty Therapy and Health and Social Care, and two silvers in IT Software Solutions for Business, and Information Network Cabling.

It also picked up nine medallions of excellence.

South Korea finished top with 23 medals, including 12 golds. In the 2011 competition, Singapore took home 14 medals, including four golds.

ITE chief executive Bruce Poh, who was the official delegate to the Singapore team, described this event as "hyper competitive". "Our competitors have trained very hard, and they have achieved very good results, bearing in mind that Singapore is still a very small country."

For Republic Polytechnic graduate Ong Kang Yu, who won silver in Information Network Cabling, it was an unusual learning experience. The 21-year-old had to deal with representatives from other countries taking videos and pictures of him through the contest.

It was twice as special for ITE beauty and spa management graduate Catherine Boey, who won gold in the Beauty Therapy category. She was invited by the category sponsor, German beauty and spa company Ionto-Comed, on a week-long trip to travel around Germany and learn more about the country's beauty therapy market.

Turning 20 tomorrow, Ms Boey said she could not ask for a better present. "It was quite stressful as in the last WorldSkills, Singapore won gold in this category for the first time. But I told myself to just do my best."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.