School sports: Hwa Chong student overcomes hamstring tear to achieve record-breaking feat

Last year, Joel Koh set the National Schools' A Division 5,000-metre race-walking record, clocking 26 minutes and 43.01 seconds en route to bagging the gold medal.

At the Bukit Gombak Stadium yesterday, the Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) student lowered the mark to 25:12.50 in winning again.

Joel was more than two minutes ahead of teammates Dong Dexin, who finished second, and Leong Sheu Xiang, who was third.

It was a feat for the 17-year-old Joel, considering that he had just recovered from a hamstring tear suffered three weeks ago and was performing "at only 70 per cent capacity".

He said: "I managed to build up quite a sizeable lead from the start, and that was important because a good start almost always guarantees a good finish.

"It can be hard to keep yourself motivated once you're so far ahead. But I kept reminding myself that I was on track to not only win but also break my own record.

"It's also a very satisfying win, because I've been hampered with a hamstring tear lately and I wasn't at peak condition. It's good to see my effort pay off. It was a very memorable race and I have to thank my coaches, family and friends for their support."

Joel admitted that his mistakes allowed him to continue getting even better, especially getting disqualified in January's Nomi Asian Racewalking Championships trials for getting his technique wrong.


His improvement was evident in a technique that was far superior to his rivals, and he said: "Technique makes or breaks a race."

"I learnt that the hard way when I got disqualified, but it's really all about training that helps you improve."

His coach Chu Seow Beng said: "He's a natural talent. That's all I need to say.

"Someone who is able to break the national record twice in as many years has to be something special, and I'm really happy for him."


This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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