Singapore teen hopes to realise ice hockey dream at Winter Youth Olympics
Ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett and short-track speed skaters Alyssa Pok and Trevor Tan will represent Singapore at Winter YOG
National youth ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett fell in love with the sport when he was a six-year-old holidaying in Vancouver, Canada.
He has been dreaming of imitating the players he saw competing in the Stanley Cup, fervently chasing a puck and fearlessly skating on ice for National Hockey League (NHL) glory.
Almost a decade later, the 15-year-old can go a step closer to that dream when he competes at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) ice hockey mixed team tournament from Jan 10-22 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
He hopes to impress scouts from the big leagues who will be looking out for raw gems at the quadrennial event.
The Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) student, along with short-track speed skaters Alyssa Pok and Trevor Tan, are the country's first representatives at the Winter YOG.
"My goal is to be professional," the defenceman told The New Paper at The Rink at JCube last Thursday.
"Scouts from the big leagues like the NHL will be there and I hope I'll be able to impress them.
"They'll be looking for potential players and I want to be one of those athletes.
"It's an honour to represent Singapore and I hope to be able to do us proud."
Matthew earned his spot after shining at a National Skills Challenge organised by Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore Ice Hockey Association.
The Skills Challenge is just one test in which the athletes compete against time.
The whole process was filmed and then submitted to International Ice Hockey Federation and Winter YOG for their selection.
The Secondary 3 student trains twice a week on Friday and Saturday and, despite having to manage both school and sport, he insists that he's adjusted to the busy schedule.
"Because of the Winter Olympics, ice hockey is my priority," said Matthew, who, at 13, was the youngest player to be drafted into Singapore's National Ice Hockey League.
He was also in the Singapore Under-15 side that finished second in the last two editions of the South-east Asia Youth Cup.
"I have the O-level exams next year, so I'll shift gears to focus on school.
"There are times when training can be rough. Sometimes it ends at 1 am, but I still manage to get some sleep.
"My parents have been really supportive and my dad comes every time I train."
Matthew's father Roger is the manager of the senior men's team that clinched a historic silver at the SEA Games in the Philippines earlier this month.
It was the Republic's first medal in ice hockey (which debuted in 2017) at the biennial games, another testament to the sport's recent progress.
"Even though we are self-funded, we managed to come back with the silver medal," said Joewe Lam, the director of the national men's team.
"The medical and physiological support we had helped us greatly as we had eight players who were injured.
"Our players are very driven and disciplined. The silver wasn't by way of luck, but hard work."
Lam believes that Matthew will be instrumental in inspiring more young athletes to take an interest in ice hockey.
"He deserves his spot at the Winter Olympics," the 30-year-old said.
"When kids see Matthew in Lausanne, I hope they'll be inspired to try out ice hockey here at The Rink.
"I would like to cultivate talent from schools, but that requires government support to encourage more youths to pick it up.
"We need more people to believe in ice hockey's potential... I believe we can be one of the region's best."