School sports: RI hurdler makes great strides on and off the track

The date was April 14, 2015.

Joshua Chua was lying flat on the running track at Bukit Gombak Stadium, crying in agony after pulling his hamstring competing in the Boys' B Division 110m hurdles final at the Schools National Track and Field Championships.

It was a worrying sight, with medics along with concerned teachers and officials urgently attending to the 15-year-old.

He had pulled his hamstring during the race, but he was adamant on completing it. So, he picked himself up and limped to the finish line before finally collapsing.

But, just one month later, the Raffles Institution student was already sick of the physiotherapist's office. He was tired of being cared for. Joshua just wanted to lace on his running shoes and get back on the track.

"My physio said that I'll be back to full fitness soon enough. I'm feeling much better now and I can move freely," said Joshua. "But, of course, there is always that fear of my hamstring acting up again, but I believe in myself. When you do just that, nothing can stop you.

"I'm just itching to get back on the track and race."

That temperament - the habit of never backing down - is second nature to him.

In his studies, Joshua is a fighter as well.

Initially lagging behind his Secondary 3 classmates earlier in the year because of his track commitments, he has made great strides to make up for lost time despite training up to four times a week.


He said: "I've participated in four tournaments this year, so it was always going to be difficult to give optimal attention and performance in school, training and studying day in, day out.

"As a result, I struggled. But I've done reasonably well lately, and getting much better grades in my subjects, like mathematics, chemistry and physics.

"The lack of time is an issue faced by many student-athletes. But, when you want to achieve something, there are always sacrifices. It just takes time to learn how to manage time."

If the teenager continues to keep his feet on the ground, the sacrifices will be worth it one day.

His coach Melvin Tan, who trained the national men's 4x100m relay team for more than two years up until last year's Incheon Asian Games, is well placed to give his views on Joshua's potential.

In last year's edition of the Schools National Track and Field Championships, Joshua clocked 13.26s in the 100m hurdles to smash the Boys' C Division record of 13.40s, set by Tang Younian way back in 1986. Another milestone came during the Western Australia Little Athletics meet in March this year, when Joshua clocked 12.97s.

Tan's verdict? Joshua can one day become a national track athlete, just like his former trainees Calvin Kang - Joshua's idol - and Gary Yeo.

"I'm not exaggerating but, honestly, Joshua is one of the most talented individuals I've seen in all my years of coaching," said Tan.

"He's talented and determined, he's broken meet records at school level and he's still only 15.

"He has a few years left before hitting his supposed peak and, with this progress, I'm full of hope."

This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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