China vow to rise again

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Rio will be remembered for Schooling

2016 Olympics will forever hail Phelps and Bolt, and Singapore's swimming sensation

Joseph Schooling.
Michael Phelps.
Usain Bolt.


He, the swimmer, first became wet at the Games in 2000 in Sydney, at the time only a student of the sport at 15 years old, the youngest male to make a US Olympic swim team in 68 years.

Michael Phelps qualified for only the 200m butterfly final.

He, the sprinter, was just days away from turning 22 when he exploded into our consciousness on his debut at the Beijing Games in 2008, as if he was in a hurry to explain the name.

Usain Bolt won three gold medals, setting three world records.

They didn't start performing incredible Olympic feats together, but their respective journeys at the Games reached the final destination here in Rio and whenever the story of the greatest Olympians is told, Phelps and Bolt will always be central figures.

And the name Joseph Schooling will inevitably emerge, after the 21-year-old Singaporean became the only man to beat the greatest gold miner in Olympic history at the 2016 Games, which came to a colourful conclusion yesterday morning (Singapore time).

In my eyes it was the feat of so many feats at these Games, the most stunning moment in the history of Singapore sport, as Schooling stormed to victory in the men's 100m butterfly at the Olympic Aquatics Centre two Saturdays ago, clocking 50.39sec to set an Olympic record and leave three of the disciplines' finest exponents to share second place.


And Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh could not complain because they were soundly beaten.

After 16 official days of competition, the 2016 Olympics ended with a closing ceremony  of song, dance, samba and Brazilian pride, amidst wintry rain and a howling wind.The locals called the ugly weather a unique blessing, and they gave thanks, perhaps necessary after a successful Games lit up by Phelps and Bolt.

And our Schooling, who rocked the world, and sent a nation seismic, giddy-drunk with joy over its first Olympic gold. 

Like Bolt, Phelps' greatest feat was performed in Beijing eight years after his Olympic bow, when he won eight golds to pip Mark Spitz's previous record haul of seven in Munich in 1972.

And he set seven world records.Many will argue that the 31-year-old is the biggest star of the 2016 Games with five golds, swimming like an ageless wonder to extend his record haul of Olympic wins to 23 and grow his medal collection to 28.There will also be many who will tick the box with the name Bolt next to it because the sprint colossus extended his unbeaten streak to three Olympics now, over nine events in total.

Gymnast Simone Biles was also a giant on her Games debut and is now the darling of her sport.

Brazil's men wore Olympic football gold for the first time and I was moved because a country that gave us the Beautiful Game simply had to end such an ugly streak.

The Olympic Games must always be about the athletes thrilling us and so many have pulled it off here.

And Schooling's moment was the most magical of nights.

Perhaps I'm a biased Singaporean, and a South African will select Wayde van Niekerk's otherworldly 400m sprint to break legend Michael Johnson's world record with a time of 43.03sec.

But a Brazilian journalist told me Schooling's feat was the best performance of the Games, because someone had dared to stand next to him, and beat an in-form Phelps.A South African journalist said it was the feel-good story of the Games.Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneuve, a writer with 20 years of experience, was full of praise for Schooling.

I had read the celebrated American magazine's preview issue for the Olympics, where their journalists predicted the result of each event.

For swimming's 100m butterfly, they listed Phelps first, Cseh second and le Clos third.

Speaking to Cazeneuve in SI's fifth floor office at the Main Press Centre, he admitted they had known little of the Singaporean then.

He described the race as "a good whuppin" for Phelps.

Now, they know. 

They will expect much from Tokyo 2020 because Japan always set high standards, and deliver.

The build-up to the first Olympics in South America was ugly, with the Russian drug scandal dominating headlines.

For the first time at an Olympics, everyone came with some form of mosquito repellant because of the threat of the Zika virus.

Visitors were warned of highly skilled pickpockets, stories of brazen muggings in broad daylight made the rounds, the water in the city was unsafe, transportation would be a nightmare.

The organisers did endure some hiccups, but in the end, Rio  hung tough and delivered, and shamed Ryan Lochte and his posse.

So many athletes delivered, and Phelps and Bolt signed off like Olympic gods.

Schooling also stirred the world, and it's my favourite moment of the Games.

Best of all, he's only just getting started.

TNP New Face 2016: Ashley Soo

Ashley Soo.

Ashley Soo, 16

Student at CHIJ Katong Convent Secondary

Ashley is a fan of rock music, but she is all about K-pop these days - more specifically, she has been listening to South Korean boy band Seventeen.

She said: "I was thrown into the world of K-pop by two of my best friends after constantly listening to them blast Korean songs and talk non-stop about it.

"I soon caught on and found myself listening frequently to the groups and I eventually became a fan of the genre."

What other kinds of music do you like?

The last concert I attended was Ed Sheeran's at The Star Theatre last year.

It was such a surreal experience because I was seated just three rows from the stage.

I never thought I would see Ed live and hear him play all his hit songs. It felt insane to witness true talent since he was performing the entire concert with just his guitar and loop pedals.

What is the most exciting thing to happen to you so far?

When I walked the runway at the annual Fashion Steps Out show at Orchard Road in March this year. It was an amazing opportunity.

What do you do to de-stress?

My ways to de-stress include reading a book, watching a movie and exercising.

Where is your favourite place to go to in Singapore and why?

You can find me at any bookstore because I love browsing through the plethora of books available.

Who do you admire most?

Without a doubt, my mother.

She has never once given up on me and she always pushes me to do my best.

Her kind demeanour and positive attitude also never fail to inspire me to be a little more like her every day.

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From accountant to female pilot

PIONEER: Captain Debbie Aw is one of nine female pilots with SilkAir.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) welcomed the first two women pilots in August last year.

But SIA's regional arm, SilkAir, has been hiring women pilots since 2001.

Captain Debbie Aw first applied to be a cadet pilot in 1998, and faced multiple rejections before being recruited in 2003.

Now, she is among nine women pilots with SilkAir.

SilkAir has a total of 225 pilots.

"I believe that we have to be twice as good to be seen as half as good," says the 40-year-old, who worked as an accountant previously.

"But in recent years, I can feel that the industry is shifting its attitude towards female pilots. We are getting more recognition for our good work and efforts."

Captain Aw developed her love for flying when she was in junior college and after she joined the Youth Flying Club.

She then started as a cadet pilot in SilkAir in 2003, and became a Captain in 2012.

As Captain of a Boeing 737, she has to maintain safety and efficiency of the flight, and to keep up the team spirit of the flight crew.

Women make up just 1 per cent of the aviation industry, while the worldwide estimate stands at 5 per cent.

"Our licence is suspended during pregnancy and we have to undergo retraining after delivery before we can resume flying duties," says Capt Aw.

The irregular working hours mean she is sometimes unable to spend as much time as she wants with her two children.


But her husband, who is a captain with SIA, and her family, have always been supportive of her career.

"My parents are of great help to me and take care of the children," she said.

Capt Aw said when more women learn about what the job entails, they may be encouraged to take to the skies too.

Are women pilots held back career wise?

No, said Capt Aw.

"It comes down to individual attitude and aptitude. There was a quote from a female pilot that struck me: 'When you jump into the cockpit, the plane doesn't care if you are a man or a woman'."

Tags: Women, JOBS and Singapore

Roses among the thorns

Two women are now pilots with Singapore Airlines. CHERYL YING and VERNETTE CHIA ( profile three other women who carved careers in male dominated industries

POSITIVE: Ms Grace Huang turned a bad relationship into an opportunity to pick up martial arts.

It's not a common sight in the martial arts fraternity.

In fact, only about one in 10 instructors here are women, says the Singapore Martial Arts Instructors Association.

Ms Grace Huang is a rare rose among the 1,000 instructors here.

The 33-year-old teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) at Trifecta Martial Arts. BJJ focuses on ground fighting, where both combatants are on the floor instead of standing.

A person uses grappling methods like chokeholds and joint-locks to defeat his opponent.

Ms Huang said she got into martial arts after an abusive relationship where her former partner threw a bedside table at her.

"I needed to do something for myself and I wanted to feel empowered," she said.

When she first started learning BJJ in December 2011, there was only one other woman in the class of 30 students.

Now, Ms Huang is one of the few female entrepreneurs in the martial arts scene.

About three years ago, she started Trifecta Martial Arts with Ms Arlene Lim, whom she met when she started learning BJJ.

"Both Arlene and I started Trifecta at very bad times in our lives. We wanted to share this message that anyone could come to us at any moment in their lives," she said.

Not everyone, however, was keen about being taught by a female.

Ms Huang said: "What troubles most male students have is mainly their ego, because they don't want to lose to a woman or they cannot believe that a smaller, lighter woman can beat them."

Ms Huang said some of the women in her school were only recently allowed to pick up martial arts.

"There was a misconception in the past that learning martial arts means you're a gangster. But that social convention doesn't exist now," said Ms Huang.

She said women are more keen to take up BJJ when they realise two women run the school.

"More women are joining us at Trifecta, because they see that two women are running the school and are less intimidated," said Ms Huang.

"Besides, Arlene competes and she is someone to look up to. Most women look at her and go, 'If she can do that, so can I'."

She said when she told her mother that she was opening a martial arts school, her mother's reaction was, 'What took you so long?'

"My mum is very supportive and I really appreciate that. This is something I attribute Trifecta to," added Ms Huang.

"Her support gives me the confidence to take chances."

Tags: Women, JOBS and Singapore

Tattoo artist helps breast surgery patients

INK ARTIST: Miss Sumithra Debi, granddaughter of the late tattoo artist Johnny Two Thumbs, is the owner of Exotic Tattoos and Piercings.

For the past 10 years, Miss Sumithra Debi has been helping women who have gone through a mastectomy - the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.

"Some women are in remission and they have healed from their surgeries, but they cannot get over what happened," says the 35-year-old.

As a tattoo artist, she uses her skill to create three-dimensional nipples for them after reconstructive surgery.

The owner of Exotic Tattoos and Piercings in Far East Plaza estimates there are only about 15 women tattoo artists here.

To create the nipples, Miss Debi first customises colour pigments to suit her customer's skin colour.

Then, she injects them into the skin just like a tattoo, creating a realistic 3D nipple.

"This little change that they have, it will take them closer to what they had before," she said.

"Males might not understand their pain because this is a problem for women."

Miss Debi has been certified by Biotouch, one of the leading manufactures of semi-permanent and permanent makeup, to specialise in paramedical tattooing - injecting ink into a person's skin in order to camouflage discolouration.

But even before she ventured into the field, she had already made a name for herself as the youngest women tattoo artist in Singapore.

Ms Debi is also the granddaughter of Johnny Two Thumbs, one of the pioneer tattoo artists here.

At the age of 16, Miss Debi officially started working for Exotic Tattoos and Piercings.

It was started by her uncle about 20 years ago, and Miss Debi took over five years ago.

She remembers how she used to get snide remarks from men who walked in.


"When they see me, they don't bother asking me any questions because they would think, 'What does she know, she's a girl'."

Miss Debi says lack of family support and an irregular income mean women don't often venture into the industry.

"When we have children, we'll have to take long breaks," she said.

About 80 per cent of Miss Debi's clientele are women.

"There's nothing to worry about because there's no one to impress," she says.

"They know they'll get a woman's advice. A guy won't tell you if your handbag will block your tattoo, or what clothes to wear when you're getting a tattoo on your hip."

Tags: Women, JOBS and Singapore