SINGAPORE: After finishing fourth in the Dynamic 2-way category of the 2016 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Indoor Skydiving Championships, Team Firefly’s Choo Yixuan is not taking any chances at this year’s event in Montreal in late October.
Instead of training in two sports, the 16-year-old has dropped her swimming major at the Singapore Sports School (SSP) to focus fully on her exploits in the wind tunnel.
“Only recently have I converted my chosen sport from swimming to (indoor skydiving) over at SSP,” said Choo. “It allows me to have more time to really focus on indoor skydiving… unlike last time, when I had to juggle both swimming and flying.
“The past few years’ routine involved me swimming and flying daily. At times, I’d have to quickly come here for flying training,” she added. “It’s very tiring to juggle those two, especially as I’d have to go home late at night."
This meant that she could only get started on homework after 11pm. However, by dropping swimming she can focus on skydiving and studying.
Her efforts have so far been paying off. Together with her team-mate Kyra Poh, the SSP student won gold in the Dynamic 2-way category at the 2017 Australian Indoor Skydiving Championships in August.
She also won gold in the Dynamic 2-way intermediate together with up-and-coming Isabelle Koh, who is nine years old.
Choo described her packed daily schedule, prior to dropping swimming. “My routine for every day last year was a morning swim then go to school,” she said.
“After that I’d have swimming in the evening. Sometimes I’m not allowed to skip swim training… and I’d have to ask to leave earlier as I have to come for training.
If that was not possible, she would have to submit a letter to be allowed to train at iFly Singapore. The extra commitment needed in the buildup to competitions made it a challenge to find time for other things.
CONCERN FOR HER STUDIES IN THE EARLY DAYS
While she may be able to balance her priorities now, this was not the case for the teen when she was just starting out in the sport. “She initially did not do too well in her studies in primary school, so I was slightly worried,” said her father Mr Choo Boon Hoe.
“However, I found that her passion in indoor skydiving, which she picked up after joining Kyra at iFly Singapore was a great opportunity for her to manage her time better.
“She has learnt to be more disciplined in everything she does, whether it’s sports or studies,” he added.
Although somewhat skeptical of her daughter’s ability to juggle her time between studying and sport, Mr Choo says he is proud of how she has managed to do so over the years. “She was brought up to be independent, and I have seen her becoming more so after entering Singapore Sports School,” he said.
“I have started giving her more leeway to decide her course of action relating to both her studies and sporting activities.
“At the end of the day, I want her to be happy and to enjoy her childhood years. I only hope that she will pursue whatever endeavor she undertakes with passion,” said Mr Choo, who works in the building and construction business.
These days, he is full of support for his daughter’s endeavors in indoor skydiving. “I am definitely proud of her performances so far,” said Mr Choo.
“I am also grateful to iFly Singapore for supporting her wholeheartedly these past six years, especially Auntie Carolyn (mother of teammate Kyra) for taking on a doting motherly role and taking good care of her during her training and overseas competitions,” he added, paying tribute to Mrs Poh’s role in helping his daughter.
LEEWAY TO DROP SWIMMING AT SSP
When asked about allowing Choo to drop her swim training at SSP, the school’s principal Mr Tan Teck Hock said: “She has been juggling her swimming, flying and studies since she joined the school and we recognised that it is not easy for her to juggle all three,” he said.
“The school’s athlete life managers then… (helped to see) where her passion lies during the career guidance sessions.
“We then worked with the various stakeholders to make it possible for her to switch as it became clearer that her greater passion lies with flying,” added the SSP principal.
It is a gesture that Choo appreciates as she gears up for a medal finish at the world championship in Canada next month. “Our aim is to get to the podium but at the same time we want to perfect our routine so that the judges can see that… (we) can do it too.”