Spotters in the spotlight

Spotters in the spotlight
DANGEROUS SPORT: Lai Qing Xiang was a member of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's cheerleading team Magnum Force (above).

SINGAPORE - They knew that cheerleading was a dangerous sport.

That made their job as spotters - ensuring their fellow cheerleaders made it through the stunts safely - all the more important.

But on their watch, Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Lai Qing Xiang, 18, fell and injured his spinal cord while attempting a back handspring on Aug 30 last year.

Mr Lai, who was part of the polytechnic's cheerleading team, died 12 days later in hospital after complications from his injuries.

On Tuesday, the two students who were spotting Mr Lai at the time of the incident were called to the stand during the coroner's inquiry.

How well Mr Vincent Lam and Mr Eugene Eng performed their roles came under the scrutiny of State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid, who said that "it was an accident waiting to happen".

Mr Lam, 19, who was the first witness on Tuesday, initially said in his conditional statement that he did not witness Mr Lai making the jump.

He elaborated in court that he was focused on helping Mr Lai complete the move and was only "assisting his legs".


He also told the court that his role as a spotter was to assist the performer in completing the stunt and to reduce the risk involved.

But the state coroner said that Mr Lam's job was to be "physically there" and that he had to look at the way Mr Lai jumped in order to perform his task.

Mr Lam then changed his answer and said that he did see Mr Lai jumping, but only vaguely.

When Mr Imran mentioned that the sport has documented a number of fairly serious injuries overseas, Mr Lam acknowledged cheerleading as one of the most dangerous sports.

But he said he was surprised because he did not think it would happen here.

Said the state coroner: "If it can happen overseas, it can happen anywhere."

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