Sailors Yokoyama, Teo determined to clear obstacles to realise dreams
Sailors Yukie Yokoyama and Cheryl Teo determined to overcome obstacles to reach Asian Games and Olympics
They took a one-year break from school, lost their coach two weeks ago and now find themselves short of money.
But they would not be put off from their sporting dreams.
In a bid to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games in August and the 2020 Olympics, national sailors Yukie Yokoyama, 20, and Cheryl Teo, 18, have drawn up a plan to train and compete in four countries over the next five months.
It will see them go through training stints in Perth (Australia), Okinawa (Japan) and Barcelona (Spain) before returning to Spain for their first Asian Games trials in March and the second one in Bulgaria in May.
Raising the $80,000 needed for the overseas exposure, though, has been anything but a breeze for the 2017 SEA Games women's 470 gold medallists.
Support from the Trailblazers Foundation and Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation has allowed them to attend two training camps in Japan and China last October and December respectively, but they find themselves still $76,000 short.
The monetary award they got from winning gold at last year's SEA Games - about $6,000 each after giving a portion of it back to the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) - had already gone to covering equipment and competition costs.
As a result, they are now looking for potential sponsors, and are even turning to crowdfunding.
Explaining the need to train outside of Singapore, Yokoyama said: "In Singapore, the conditions are not ideal.
"The wind here is generally very light. When you go overseas and the wind is medium to strong, then we will struggle and can't be competitive.
"So, for one thing, we travel to get better wind conditions and bigger waves.
"Also, in Singapore, it's just the two of us, we don't get enough sparring and training partners. Overseas training gives us more exposure to different conditions and a higher level of sailing.
The pair have applied for the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship). The outcome of their application will be known only next month.
If successful, they said it will cover half of their costs.
The spexScholarship provides selected national athletes with monthly stipends and increased sports science and medicine support, in their bid to excel at regional, Asian, world and Olympic levels.
On top of their financial struggles, they also lost their coach Zhang Yong Qiang about a fortnight ago due to a reshuffle within SSF.
Zhang, who had been their coach for the past year, is now coaching in the 29ers programme, which is another sailing class.
Teo, 18, said: "We can't do much. If we're doing something wrong, we don't know what's the right thing to do.
"It's the build-up towards the start of the season, so it's a bit risky for us not to have a coach now."
The SSF declined to comment on the matter, but The New Paper understands that there are plans to bring in a coach for a short stint at the end of the month or early next month.
Both Yokoyama and Teo are on a year-long deferment from school, starting last September, to focus on qualifying for the Asian Games and Tokyo Olympics.
Yokoyama, an environmental studies undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, had just completed her freshman year, while Teo was midway through her second year of a business and social enterprise diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
They feel that this was a sacrifice worth taking.
Yokoyama said: "Now we have time to focus on training and time to rest. We can focus on a lot of other aspects around sailing like going to the gym and nutrition, so we've progressed a lot since we've stopped school."
They may consider extending their leave if they qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but stressed that it would depend on the availability of funds for their training.
The qualification phase of the Olympics begins in about six months.
After their success at the SEA Games, Yokoyama and Teo are confident of moving up to the next level.
Teo said: "I thought Tokyo 2020 wasn't a realistic dream, but I realised that it was possible.
"Every time we improve, it feels very good and it pushes me a lot. It feels nice to get closer to the goal and ultimately reach Tokyo 2020."
Yokoyama added: "I've had a lot of bumps in sailing but, after I partnered her (Teo), I have someone who has a common goal as me and is as passionate and motivated as me.
"If the opportunity is there, we should just go all out for it."