Speed skater Alyssa Pok goes the extra mile by training in South Korea
Singapore's Winter YOG rep, 15, goes the extra mile to S. Korea for coaching during school vacation
Short-track speed skater Alyssa Pok's dedication to the sport goes beyond her usual five-times-a-week training.
Fuelled by an unrelenting desire for excellence, the 15-year-old usually spends her school holidays in South Korea, where she would seek more coaching expertise to enhance her ice-skating skills.
Back in Singapore, if a competition is coming up, she wakes up in the wee hours for twice-weekly sessions at the ice rink before attending classes. Training on the other days are on land.
But all her effort has paid off. She will be Singapore's flagbearer at the Jan 9-22 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The West Spring Secondary School student will be one of the Republic's first representatives at the Games, alongside fellow short-track speed skater Trevor Tan and ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett.
Despite having to juggle training and studies, she finds a way to manage.
"Training can be tough," the Sec 4 student told The New Paper after a training session at The Rink at JCube.
"I can feel a little tired during lessons, but I try my best to stay awake in order not to miss out on information that will be crucial in exams."
Singapore had earned a direct spot in the girls' competition in Lausanne, after their performance at last year's World Junior Championships in Montreal.
To determine who would take up the spot, the skaters had to go through two selection meets - last year's national championships and the Asian Open trophy in Yunnan, China, where Alyssa set national records for 13 to 14-year-olds in the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m.
The teenager, who will be competing in the 500m and 1,000m, said her overseas training stints have helped her improve.
"When I train abroad, it's a fun experience. In Korea, we get more ice sessions, so I'm able to improve faster," she said.
"My aim is to better my timings, and make more national records."
Alyssa has come a long way since struggling to maintain her balance when she took up the sport after watching a demonstration at JCube's ice rink.
"Obviously, when you start out, it's going to be hard. It's going to be a lot of falls and it's not something that is very natural," she said.
"Eventually, it does not get easier. But you get better, you get stronger and you get faster timings."
Despite her intense focus on the sport, Alyssa, who is sitting for her O-level exams this year, doesn't neglect her studies.
She said: "Sometimes, when I go overseas for competitions and I know that I'm going to be missing a week of school or maybe a few weeks even, I'll ask my teachers for help and understand the content (that I'll be missing)."
Alyssa, who aspires to be a vet, added: "Just as much as I want to excel in skating, I want to do the same with my studies."
Having witnessed her teammates clinch three gold medals and a bronze at last month's SEA Games in Manila while she was at a training camp in Busan, Alyssa's fire has been stoked.
She looks up to her seniors such as Cheyenne Goh, who won the 500m and 1,000m golds and was Singapore's first Winter Olympian.
Said Alyssa: "I am inspired by my teammates. Seeing their success strengthened my resolve to do well at the Winter Youth Olympics."
Like Cheyenne, I also want to participate in more major Games. I hope to make Singapore proud in Lausanne."