SINGAPORE: Lim Shengyu is not your typical athlete. At 1.91 metres tall, he looms over his teammates in Singapore's national basketball team.
But it's not only the forward's stature that sets him head and shoulders above the rest.
Come Feb 21, the Singapore Slingers could be celebrating their first Asean Basketball League title. Lim Shengyu could have been part of this, but for his decision to quit the team two seasons ago. Nevertheless, he will have no regrets.
The final year National University of Singapore (NUS) student will be graduating with an honours degree in Environmental Engineering soon. It will be a reward for the struggles he had been through in the past year.
He recalls the days he had to juggle studies and basketball when he's preparing for the SEA Games last year.
"A typical day (during the SEA Games) would be two trainings, morning and night and I would try to arrange my lessons in the middle of the day,” he said. “I don't get much sleep, five-six hours every day, spend most of my time on public transport. Between here (NUS) and Sports Hub it's a good one hour. So two trips to the Sports Hub every day would be four hours travelling. I would be either sleeping on the train or trying to read up some notes."
Lim also passed up the chance to play for the Slingers in the past two years due to his final year project. In fact, he intends to keep up his juggling act, by forging a career as an environmental engineer while still playing for the national team.
The 25-year-old believes there is no reason that an athlete cannot excel in both sports and studies.
"I see a lot of young people, they are passionate basketballers, definitely, but many of them would let their education slip and I don't think that is the way to go,” said Lim. “It's possible to do well in both as long as you have the self-discipline, you have a goal in mind, something that you want to achieve."
Crystal Wong (right) studying with a teacher at the Singapore Sports School.
For badminton player Crystal Wong, juggling sports and studies means constant catching up on schoolwork is necessary.
The bronze medallist at the 2015 SEA Games scored the O-Level equivalent of 6 points for 6 subjects in her Sports School exams last year. The 17-year-old is now in her first year of the Sports School's four-year International Baccalaureate programme.
"The teachers in our school are very kind and understanding,” said Wong. “They know the rigour of our sport, especially when I go for overseas competitions, I have to miss a lot of classes. So they will usually give me reading materials and assignments to bring overseas to complete, so that I won't fall back too much. So when I come back they will go through it with me one to one, to go through all the lessons I missed."
Wong's plan is to turn professional, which means putting her studies in the back burner.
"For badminton, there's a certain age limit that you can reach, because it is very strenuous physically, so you need that stamina to keep up with the rigour of the sport. I believe that I would like to pursue my sport first because studies can always be put on hold and continue on later," she said.
She hopes to go to university once she is done playing.