Short-track speed skater Alyssa Pok will carry Singapore’s flag at the Lausanne 2020 Opening Ceremony, as the southeast Asian nation makes its debut at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG).
How excited are you to have been selected for the Winter YOG Lausanne 2020?
“I feel really excited. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and not many people actually get to qualify for the Winter Youth Olympic Games. So, to be able to participate in these Games and represent Singapore is really an amazing opportunity for me.”
This is the first time that Singapore has sent athletes to the Winter YOG. How does it make you feel to be one of the first athletes to represent Singapore at this event?
“Singapore is not a winter country, but I think it is important that we are represented. Being able to participate in winter sports as a tropical country is quite unique, and I think being part of this Winter YOG will be amazing and a great experience. To be able to meet other young athletes who probably have more experience and be able to learn a thing or two from them.”
What was your reaction when you found out that you had been selected to compete in Lausanne?
“When I first found out that I was able to take part in the Winter YOG, I was really overjoyed that I had been selected and extremely happy that my hard work had paid off. I thought that it was really a huge honour to able to represent Singapore in these Games. So, for me, I think it was also a big surprise.”
You've also been selected to carry the flag for Singapore at the Opening Ceremony. Are you looking forward to that?
“I really feel honoured to be the flagbearer for Singapore. Holding the flag will make me feel so proud and it instils an even greater sense of responsibility to do my best for Singapore and myself. So, I'll continue to strive to do better and make Singapore proud.”
Last year in PyeongChang, we saw Singapore participate at the Olympic Winter Games for the first time, with Cheyenne Goh compete in short-track speed skating. Were you inspired by seeing a Singaporean athlete at the Games?
“Yes, for sure. Cheyenne is my team-mate and seeing her at the Olympic Winter Games was obviously a major achievement for Singapore. Also, as well as for her, I think being a tropical country and participating in a winter sport is a great feat. And being able to qualify and achieve that position is quite an amazing achievement. Having been a team-mate to Cheyenne Goh, I know she trains hard and she's really disciplined to do her best at every single race and every single training session. So, to see someone so determined being able to achieve her dreams makes me also want to do better and achieve my goals too.”
As you mentioned, Singapore is not a winter country, so how did you get started in a winter sport?
“When the new ice rink opened in 2012, my parents took me to watch a demonstration of the respective sports that were available, like short-track speed skating, figure skating and ice hockey. And when I saw the speed skaters going around the ice rink at such a fast speed, trying to overtake each other, I could see that it was a great adrenaline rush. So I knew I had to try this sport and then I joined a training programme the following year.”
What are you most looking forward to about Lausanne 2020?
“I am looking forward to cherishing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. I also hope to make friends with the other young athletes from the different parts of the world and learn their cultures and probably pick up some skating tips. I am also looking forward to staying in the Athletes’ Village as it will be a unique experience and, last but not least, I look forward to being able to compete to the best of my abilities and attain good results.”
What do you hope to gain from competing in the Winter YOG?
“I want to achieve new personal best timings and set new national records for all my distances. I know the competition will be hard, but I know that I'll be able to work hard and put in my best effort in order to achieve the goals I've set for myself. And this competition pressure is good for me because it will help me learn how to handle the pressure and stress of doing well for future major events. So next time when I compete at a high level like this, hopefully I'll get less nervous or I'll be able to be more prepared so that I can do better.”
What are your long-term goals in the sport?
“I hope to be able to represent Singapore in other major events, like maybe the World Championships, World Cup or even the Olympic Winter Games. I also want to give back to the sport I love so much and hopefully coach other young aspiring athletes from Singapore so that they can develop and also represent Singapore in other competitions and do Singapore proud.”
Do you have any other interests apart from skating?
“I like to read many journals or books in my free time, and I am also passionate about helping animals. So, in the future, I hope to do something related to animals as well. My favourite animals are dogs. I always wanted a pet dog but, unfortunately, I'm not allowed to.”
Do you think you can make a deal with your dad so that maybe you can get a dog if you win a medal in Lausanne?
“[Laughing] That's a very unlikely! I think we have to get another house before I can get a dog!”