OVER the past four years, he has amassed more than five gold medals.
He has fought and trained in countries such as Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, and even Lebanon.
With such an illustrious CV, you’d think that judoka Walter Soh is already reaching the peak of his career.
But the 16-year-old is just getting started.
Ever since Walter first took up judo four years ago, the St Gabriel’s Secondary School student has had quite a colourful career.
Explaining his love for the sport, he said: “When I was in primary school, I felt I was skinny and weak. Once I reached secondary school, I decided to join the CCA.
“Judo strengthens me both physically and mentally. It’s also a very graceful sport, and a way of life.”
And the nature of the sport has improved Walter’s self-confidence, enabling him to face different opponents, even those twice his age.
“Before I go into a match, I always tell myself that I only have one rival to face, and that’s me,” said the recipient of the Peter Lim scholarship.
The blood and sweat shed on the mat have paid dividends.
For a start, it has earned him a nomination for The New Paper School Sports Star Award presented by H-TWO-O.
He also bagged gold medals in the Hong Kong International Youth and Junior Judo tournament (below 55kg), the Pesta Sukan Judo Championships (below 60kg), and the Singapore National Judo Championships (below 60kg), in 2010.
His feats have earned him a place in the National Development squad.
For the past three years, Walter has been unbeaten in all his individual events at the National Inter-School Judo Championships.
This year, he went one better, helping St Gabriel’s win the Schools National B title for the first time in March.
They downed powerhouses Raffles Institution (RI) 3-0 in the final after preliminary-round victories over Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and St Joseph’s Institution (SJI).
The nail-biting win over defending champions HCI is one of his most memorable judo moments.
Walter said: “I couldn’t believe that my team won. Until now, I still can’t believe it.
“The previous finals were always between HCI and RI, and we were always the bronze medallists. It’s like a curse that we couldn’t enter the final.”
For his successes, Walter has his school’s external coach, Melvynna Tambunan, to thank.
“She’s like a tender loving sister to me, and she’s a very good coach,” he said. “Before competitions, when we feel nervous, she will plan outings for us to get our minds off the match.”
Likewise, the coach has kind words for her student.
Tambunan said: “He’s funny, and a nice boy. He’s helpful, and quite a team player.”
Juggling between his studies and judo is no easy task for a Secondary 4 student, but Walter has his family to thank for lending a helping hand.
For example, his father, Eric Soh, will help him find tutors for his weaker subjects.
The family will also be extra understanding whenever Walter gets grumpy due to his dietary restrictions to maintain his weight.
Off the mat, the teenager’s playful nature has earned him the moniker “the monkey”.
He recalled a recent trip to Indonesia, where he and his friends played a prank on other teammates by smearing sticky detergent on their room’s door knobs.
Besides pranks, Walter plays computer games such as popular online shooting game Blackshot.
But it’s not just all play and no work for Walter, who is preparing for his O levels with the hope of pursuing a degree in business or journalism.
His CCA teacher-in-charge, Joseph Ng, said: “He actually came into the school as a Normal (Academic) student, but subsequently, he was promoted to the Express stream in one year.
“So, it shows that he’s quite focused on his academics too.”
As for judo, Walter has high hopes.
He said: “I want to go to the Olympics, obviously.
“In the short term, I want to be a South-east Asia (SEA) Games champion, and then move on to the Asian Games. Then slowly, I’ll set my goals higher.”