Sportsgirl more kiasu than mum

Although national judoka Tania Forichon, 19, lived in Switzerland for 13 years, her transition to living back in Singapore was smooth.

Her Singaporean mother, realtor Hwee Ping Forichon, 46, says it helped that her daughter is a "fast learner".

As Tania was not exposed to written English at school in Geneva, where French is the language of instruction, she failed her first English comprehension test in Secondary 3 at Methodist Girls' School. The following year, however, she scored A1 in the language at O levels.

"I adapted really well to the Singapore lifestyle. The Swiss education system is slower-paced. People in Singapore study a lot harder. There's a lot more competition. I enjoy it because I'm quite competitive by nature," says the Singapore-born girl who is a Year 6 student at Raffles Institution.

She is also competitive in sport. "Whenever she plays anything, she wants to compete," says Mrs Forichon, citing Tania's participation in horse-riding and skiing competitions when she was younger.

At the South-east Asian Games, which starts here on Friday, Tania will be representing the country in judo.

Her father, Mr Thierry Forichon, a Singapore permanent resident and commodities broker in the agricultural sector, says that in her early teens, Tania was "competitive" in wanting to be "first" in the computer games she played, a source of tension at that time.

"Once, she locked us in our bedroom so that she could play computer games during the night," the 55-year-old Frenchman tells SundayLife! in a telephone interview while on a work trip abroad.

"Tania doesn't need to be pushed. On the contrary, I try and slow her down sometimes, to calm down. Most of the time, it's to no avail. When she wants to succeed, she's not listening to you to slow down."

Tania has two younger brothers who are students here, Henri, 12, and John, nine. Her half-brother Pierre, 24, works in London as a metals broker.

What drew you to judo, Tania?

Tania: I started at about seven years old. Some of my classmates had joined a judo club that held practices at my school. My father later decided to move me to another club.

Mr Forichon: At the first club, I found that the coach was very lenient. She did well at the new club.

Do any of your family members do judo?

Tania: My brother John started doing judo a few months ago. My mum was reluctant to let him. I broke my collar bone at 13 doing the sport.

Mrs Forichon: It was during a judo competition two hours away from Geneva. I had to drive her back, crying, to the children's hospital in Geneva, which was better than the hospital nearer the competition venue. It was heart-wrenching. I thought she would give up judo.

Tania: It never occurred to me to stop doing judo. Injuries are a part of sport.

What is your parenting style like?

Mrs Forichon: I consider myself quite a strict parent. I've always insisted that my kids show respect, for instance. Tania thinks I'm not as kiasu (Singlish for fearing to lose out to others) as other parents, though. She did well in physics, but told me she wanted tuition in Secondary 4.

Tania: I felt I could do better in the subject. Mum is quite open-minded and lets me have a lot of independence.

Mr Forichon: I'm French, we bring up children in more relaxed ways.

Which parent are you closer to?

Tania: I've always been close to both but now I'm closer to my mum because my dad travels a lot for work. When I was younger, I was closer to my dad who's very much an outdoors person. We'd go horse-riding and play tennis together, and go hiking or skiing.

Mrs Forichon: Tania and I talk about everything.

What are your views on caning?

Mrs Forichon: I've used the cane if there was a need to impose a certain limit, to make the children understand what they had done wrong.

Tania: I don't particularly object to it. Each family should have its own form of discipline.

Mr Forichon: It's not something we do in Europe. I would say caning has to be done in the right way to be effective. You have to warn the child what the consequences for an act are, to give him the chance to correct himself. But I did not object when my wife decided to use the cane because she is in charge of the kids' education. None of our kids are traumatised.

How Singaporean do you feel, Tania?

Tania: It's not about how long you live in a country, but more about how you identify with the people and embrace the culture. I am a Singapore citizen and I've always felt at home here. We came back for a month every year during the holidays in Switzerland. We speak French and English at home. I study French but I can speak basic Mandarin to my grandmother and taxi drivers.

Mrs Forichon: I'm Singaporean and I try to impart my Chinese culture and values, such as respect and obedience.

If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you have done differently?

Mr Forichon: I've never thought about me being Tania. I want to fulfil my role as the head of the family and do it well.

Tania: I'd be a more kiasu mother. I would also be more involved in judo. My mum's not a judoka and there were certain points when I was pretty discouraged about judo, for example, after I broke my collarbone. I would have pushed my child more at that age, which was about 14. Those are crucial years in development.

Mrs Forichon: I was thinking the opposite - if you're hurt, you should take it easy. If I were Tania, I probably wouldn't do what she's doing. It's a tough life, shuttling between training and school. When I was her age, I was having so much fun at Raffles Junior College.

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This article was first published on May 31, 2015.
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