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Take that

Chelsea, who has hole in the heart, vows to make up for her controversial loss in 2013

KICKING UP A STORM: Chelsea Sim wields a deadly kick that can reach a height of 1.8m.

For taekwondo exponent Chelsea Sim, it really is all about the heart.

At just 1.50 metres, the 19-year-old may look like a vulnerable sweetheart who loves shopping and TV series, but she wields a deadly kick that can reach a height of 1.80m.

Her agility and flexibility impressed many at the 2013 SEA Games, but controversy struck in the final when hosts Myanmar's Yamin K Khine was awarded almost half a point more than Chelsea.

That denied her the honour of winning Singapore's first SEA Games taekwondo gold since 1999 and left her heartbroken.

But she overcame her disappointment and persevered. Since then, she has won gold medals at last year's Asian Cities Gold Cup and this year's US Open taekwondo championships.

She will compete in the SEA Games poomsae women's singles and mixed pair events in Singapore next month.

Oh, and did we mention, she has accomplished all these feats with a hole in the heart?

Her elder sister Courtney has the same birth defect, although it is not hereditary. "If I over-exert, I will feel breathless and a tightness in my chest," Chelsea told The New Paper.

"But I know my limits and when to stop. Actually, ever since I picked up taekwondo, my immunity has improved and I have grown stronger."

The Singapore Management University business undergrad has also matured mentally and emotionally.

"I am no longer upset; I will use it as motivation," she said. "My goal is gold.


"My family and friends are excited because they have never seen me compete at a major competition, and they have bought tickets to support me."

A key figure in her corner is four-time SEA Games champion Wong Liang Ming, who is also the Singapore Taekwondo Federation secretary general and national team head coach.

"Coach Wong has been my coach for four years and she is like my second mother," said Chelsea.

"I see her more than my own mother because I spend eight hours at the federation and, after my real mum fetches me home, it's almost bedtime.

"Coach Wong travels with me for overseas competitions and has been with me when I lost and cried, or won and celebrated."

Wong, 52, hopes Chelsea can finally top the podium next month.

Targeting two gold medals, she feels that Team Singapore stand a better chance in poomsae than gyeorugi. Poomsae is a defined form of defence and attack motions, while gyeorugi is the sparring form.

She said: "It will be difficult for us in gyeorugi because our main rivals are the Thais and Vietnamese, who are full-time professionals and have height advantage over us.

"Thailand's Panipak Wongpattanakit just won the women's finweight (up to 46kg) world title this month, and is also the Youth Olympic champion. She is just 17, but is already more than 1.7m tall.

"But, as you can see from the 2013 SEA Games, poomsae is a very subjective discipline.

"We have talented poomsae and gyeorugi exponents, but most of them have to juggle school and training.

"So, as long as our athletes do their best, we will be satisfied."

'My turn to make history'

Inspired by dad Fandi, Irfan wants to fire Young Lions 
to the elusive football gold

MAKING A POINT: While Irfan Fandi (above) has huge potential, Singapore U-23 assistant coach S Subramani warns against putting too much pressure on him.

Irfan Fandi has only one thing on his mind.

He can sense his moment coming.

He wants to deliver where generations of Singaporean footballers have failed: Win the South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal.

"Gold is all that I'm thinking about," said the striker, a very young man touted to achieve great things.

His date with destiny is nearing.

Inspired was how he felt after watching father Fandi Ahmad lift the Malaysian FA Cup with the LionsXII last Saturday.

While Irfan was making a goalscoring appearance for the Young Lions in a 5-1 friendly win against Laos' Under-23 side, the significance of the developments in Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur did not go unnoticed.

"Making history" were the 17-year-old's words of choice when he spoke to The New Paper before yesterday's training session with the Singapore U-23s.

He repeated the words five times.

The chance to make his own history comes in six days' time, when the Young Lions take on the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium in their SEA Games Group A opener.

The other teams in the group are Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

"Much has been said about Singapore's quest for a first football gold medal, everyone's been talking about it," said the 1.87-metre tall striker.

"It's a big moment for us. My dad made history for Singapore football when he won the country's first cup in Malaysian football in 21 years on Saturday, so by the end of the SEA Games, it's my turn."

Fandi, widely acknowledged as Singapore's greatest footballer, won three silver and three bronze medals in nine SEA Games. Alas, the gold medal eluded him.

Subsequent Games came and went after Fandi hung up his boots in 1997, and there was still no gold.


A meagre return of three bronze medals in 2007, 2009 and 2013 was as good as it got.

Irfan has grand plans. He wants to achieve what even his father couldn't deliver.

But going one better than Fandi is just the first of his ambitions.

He would like nothing more than to emerge from his father's long shadow, to show he is more than just the offspring of Singapore's most famous footballer.

"This SEA Games is a big opportunity for me in so many ways," he said.

"But, most importantly, it's a chance for me to stamp my mark, and tell people that I'm Irfan Fandi, that I am my own man.

"That I'm more than just Fandi Ahmad's son."

Expectations of Irfan are understandably high.

Singaporeans already tout him as a star despite his fledgling years.

But U-23 assistant coach S Subramani was quick to warn against putting too much pressure on the boy's broad shoulders.

"People need to understand that he's still a young boy, and he's still developing himself as a player," said the former Singapore defender.

"He's got potential, and everyone can see what a talent he is. He scored last Saturday against Laos U-23s, and he scored during our training trip in Japan (in a 2-1 loss to local fourth-tier side Azul Claro Numazu), so you can see that he does bring goals to the team.

"I can't tell you if Sahil (Suhaimi) is going to start ahead of him or not, because both of them are different players.

"But what I can tell you is that either player brings something different to the team. Sahil's nippy and tricky. Irfan's tall and strong. You always want that kind of options in your team.

"I know that not many Singaporeans have seen much of Irfan over the years because he's been away for so long, learning his football, but I think he's got enough in him to make the wait worth it."

Now, the ball is in Irfan's court.

It is a home SEA Games. History beckons.

Duty calls, and Irfan is more than ready to answer.

An entire country expects, with bated breath.

Pain, pressure and a perfectionist streak

Gutsy Chan pulling out all stops in hunt for gold

"The talk is all about leaving a legacy, but how do you leave a legacy? By first getting that gold." - Dinah Chan (above)

She was all smiles, and why not?

This was the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, and Dinah Chan had just finished fourth in the women's individual time trial (ITT in 39 minutes 54.17 seconds), beating her nearest South-east Asian challenger, Thailand's Chanpeng Nontasin, by some six seconds.

But the first thing she expressed to Singapore media then was not joy at beating her closest rival in the region, nor was it satisfaction of finishing well beyond her ninth-spot prediction.

It was pain. 

The affable former teacher was still smiling, as she admitted being in "so much pain" from "smashing the gears" to see just where she stood in the Asian order. 

Chan has a rather unusual physiological problem - a burning sensation in her thighs that requires her three hours to fully warm up. 

Some eight months on, as the South-east Asia (SEA) Games (June 5-16) loom, the pain is still there.

Throw on the pressure of being the defending Games champion in the ITT at a race to be played out on home ground - with Nontasin still lurking - and the task ahead of Chan becomes clearer, but only a little. 

The Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) is fielding an eight-member peloton (six men, two women), and the team have been given a modest target of one gold medal - with the burden of delivery resting largely on the 29-year-old. 

Still, the smile remained plastered on her face. 

"I do give myself pressure: this is home ground, I'm the defending champion, and what if I don't win - it'll be so paiseh (Hokkien for embarrassing)," she chuckled. 

"At the Asian Games, I was still warming up on the first lap, and this time if I don't get my legs to warm up properly...", she trailed off mid-sentence, the first time the smile disappeared from her face yesterday, when the cyclists met the media. 

But the grin quickly returned.


"But I'm not so stressed about the pain, my coaches have more or less found a solution for it - but it's a secret!" she added. 

Chan has shown that pain is not that big a factor for her.

A mere three months before she struck gold in Myanmar in 2013, she suffered a mild concussion and fractured teeth in a road accident. 

That did not stop her winning the Republic's first cycling gold in 16 years. 

This time it is different, but she is thankful for having teammates to train with - in a what can be a "lonely" sport - even national athletes from other sports she met while at the Incheon Games. 

"I spoke with Shayna Ng (2012 World Cup winning bowler and 2014 Singapore Sportswoman of the Year) and she agreed that winning is fun only the first time, and from the second time onwards - you're supposed to win," Chan said, pleased at having found a kindred spirit who understood what it means to be a champion. 

"When I won in 2013, the accident took the pressure off me, because no one expected anything, and the gold was a bonus. 

"This time there are more events and interviews. But I'm an athlete - my main job is to train, rest and get that gold." 

"Some people may like interviews and all, but I don't. I want to rest every minute that I'm not training," she added, the perfectionist streak just peeking over the smile.

A Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholar, Chan has trained full-time since 2013 but, even that and all the support that it comes with, is just not good enough for her. 

She said: "To me, there is no perfect preparation.

"All preparation is not good enough. It's only a question of how quickly you get over your obstacles." 

And we already know just how well - and quick - Chan can get over hers.