SIBLING rivalry is never easy to deal with, especially when your older sister has won gold at the 2005 South-east Asia (SEA) Games and participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
However, instead of going green with envy, 15-year-old sailor Ryan Lo was inspired by his sister, Lo Man Yi’s achievements.
“Both my sister and brother Jun Hao, 22, who won a silver at the 2007 SEA Games for the Super Mod event, have set the benchmark for me” said Ryan, a Secondary 3 student at Victoria School. “And they are really my source of inspiration.”
Growing up in a family of sailors, Ryan started the sport at the age of seven.
“I like the competitiveness of sailing, and the mental and physical challenge it provides,” he said.
“Sailors are trained to be strong enough to handle strong wind conditions and tough enough to handle physical pain.”
Over the last two years, Ryan has emerged from the shadows of his siblings.
In 2010, he won a a bronze medal in the Optimist event at the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
And earlier this month, he came in third at the Dutch Youth Regatta held in Workum, Holland.
Last year’s IODA World Sailing Championships turned out to be the highlight of his sailing career as Singapore won the team race and the Nations Cup.
But it could have been even better.
In the individual event, Ryan finished fourth out of 210 Optimist sailors, but he could easily have been on the podium.
In the final race, he was lying second but the race was called off due to bad weather. Only the results of the previous 11 races were considered for the final standings, and he missed out.
Ryan’s coach, Xu Xiaodong, feels that the Victorian has immense potential to do better.
“Ryan’s a born sailor with a good sense for the sport, which makes him different from other sailors,” said Xu. “And he is also very diligent and competitive as he wants to be the best he can be.”
Big sister Man Yi, 24, agrees.
“Ryan has a lot of potential and talent,” she said. “I think he can surpass me and I don’t think it’s impossible for him to win a medal at the Olympics.”
Xu added that Ryan is making very good progress in the Optimist class.
“Ryan has a good chance of qualifying for the Olympics in the future,” he said. “But it is still early days and he has to work really hard.”
And Ryan is doing just that.
He trains with his school on Wednesdays and Fridays, and with the national team on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends.
Ryan has no problems balancing training and and his studies.
“I try my best to pay attention in class and ask questions whenever I’m in doubt,” said Ryan, who has to miss about 10 weeks of school a year for competitions.
“I ask my teachers for extra classes too.”
Wong Liang Seng, Ryan’s form teacher, said: “Despite his heavy training schedule, Ryan manages to submit works of good standard.
“He takes ownership of his learning, and carries himself well and with confidence too.”
So where does Ryan get his resilience from?
His answer: “My father. He can be strict at times with us but he has given me a lot. He has given me a lot of advice, helped me stay calm and become mentally stronger.”
Then there is the support of his mother, Dolly Lo.
In the last Asian Games, together with the rest of the family, she wrote 17 letters for her son – one for each day of the Games.
Ryan said: “I read one every morning before racing and they were a source of motivation and encouragement.”
His mother also sends him to his training sessions and buys recovery food such as bananas and muesli bars after training.
She said: “Ryan is a bit stubborn, in the sense that he doesn’t quit or give up, and I think he inherited this mental strength from his father.”