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PyeongChang 2018

Singapore’s Goh blazing a trail on the ice

Cheyenne Goh will become the first Singaporean athlete to appear at the Olympic Winter Games when she competes at PyeongChang 2018. The intrepid short track speed skater is looking to do more than just make up the numbers, however, and has her eyes set firmly on winning medals.

The 18-year-old will be Singapore’s only representative at PyeongChang 2018. Football and badminton are the number one pursuits in the south-east Asian city-state, where winter sports rarely set pulses racing.

Goh could be about to change all that, however. The youngster moved to the chillier climes of Canada when she was four and took up her sport a few years later. She has since gone on to represent her country of birth on the international stage, competing at last year’s Asian Winter Games in Sapporo (JPN) and at the Short Track Speed Skating World Championships in Rotterdam (NED).

Goh is entirely at ease with the idea of representing a country with no winter sports tradition whatsoever: “It’s not strange for me at all,” she said after a recent training session in Singapore. 

Short track speed skating is an indoor sport, so as long as the facilities are there, there’s no reason why you can’t do it. Cheyenne Goh Singapore

Training in Singapore is not without its challenges, however. The nation’s only Olympic ice rink is located on the third floor of a shopping centre and is flanked by restaurants and a cinema. Goh can only train when the rink is open to the public, and even then, she has to share the ice with other speed skaters, figure skaters and an ice hockey team.

A passion born in Canada

Just qualifying for PyeongChang 2018 is an achievement in itself for the young skater. The hope now among the country’s sports officials is that Goh’s success will encourage more Singaporeans to take an interest in winter sports.

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“Her qualification is a big thing for her and for us as a governing body,” said Sonja Chong, the president of the Singaporean Ice Skating Association. Goh is aware, however, that she will have a hard task achieving the same success as the swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won the nation’s first ever Olympic gold at Rio 2016.

The trailblazing skater has nevertheless shown that she can win medals too, picking up two silvers and a bronze at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, which saw winter sports make their very first appearance on the competition schedule.

Chong is hopeful the youngster can prove every bit as inspirational as Schooling: “After Joseph’s gold medal a lot more people began taking an interest in swimming. We hope the same thing will happen for skating here.”

Goh’s first taste of winter sports in Canada came through ice hockey, an integral part of life there. Her passion for short track was fired when she watched Vancouver 2010.

Drawn to the speed of the sport and its sheer unpredictability, she began taking lessons, and now devotes all her time to her sport, having taken a year out after finishing her school studies. Dividing her time between Singapore and Canada, she also has regular training sessions with four-time Olympic champion Chun Lee-kyung in the Republic of Korea.

Goh, who will be competing in the women’s 1,500m on 17 February, has stepped up her training to six hours a day, six days a week.

Yet no matter how much she trains and competes, she never quite knows what to expect when she takes to the ice:

The more competitions you do, the more experience you pick up. The thing is, you can never predict how a race is going to go, and I think that’s what makes it even more exciting. Cheyenne Goh Singapore

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