SEA Games: Studies can wait for future law student

Call him the law-breaker, if you will.

Don't worry, national wushu exponent Yong Yi Xiang hasn't committed any crime.

The 21-year-old did, however, defer his enrolment in the National University of Singapore's law school to compete at last year's Asian Games and this month's South-east Asia Games.

Yong told The New Paper: "I deferred my studies for my dream. Importantly, my family are supportive of my choice.

"In my opinion, a wushu athlete's sporting life is short. We reach our peak at around 25 or 26, and then it is over because of age and injuries.

"I can study anytime, but there is limited time to pursue competitive sport as an athlete. I want to see how far I can push myself.

"There were people who discouraged me and reminded me of the opportunity costs, but I have decided to follow my heart and I have no regrets.

"People asked me how much more money I would make in a year. But the coaches have a lot of faith in me. I want to outdo myself and I don't want to let them down."

Yong picked up the sport when he was 11. As he was suffering from childhood asthma, his mother thought it would be a good idea to improve his health through sports.

Just four years later, he became the first Singaporean to be crowned champion at the World Junior Championships when he won the boys' Under-16 gunshu event.

At the last SEA Games in 2013, Yong teamed up with Lee Tze Yuan to win a bronze in the men's bare hands duilian, before finishing fifth in the men's changquan at last year's Asian Games.

To further hone his craft, he spent seven months in a full-time programme from last June at the Shandong Training Centre, where the province's best athletes from various sports train.

"I experienced life as a professional athlete; I woke up at 6.30am, trained thrice a day from 8.30 am to 11am, 2.30pm to 5pm and 7pm to 9pm, before sleeping at 11pm," said Yong.

"It was a very meaningful experience, with little distraction, and only the focus of doing well.

"It was an eye-opener because many athletes there were world-class in terms of technique, conduct and mental fortitude."

At this SEA Games, Yong will compete in the men's changquan, broadsword and cudgel events, and he is hoping to improve on his previous haul.

He said: "I have set a personal challenge to make breakthroughs in terms of my understanding of this sport and to improve on my presentation.

"I cannot practise without understanding the culture, and I learnt a lot in Shandong. I actively asked and tried to understand the meaning behind the various moves.

"I have made a total revamp of my routines. They are now more refined and more intense, with a smooth flow and continuity.

"I'm better prepared than the 2013 SEA Games. We have received a lot of help from Sport Singapore and SNOC, and I hope to deliver a flawless performance."

This article was first published on June 06, 2015.
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