Swimming and chess help jiu-jitsu exponent Noah Lim win SEA Games gold
Jiu-jitsu exponent Noah Lim, 17, claims SEA Games title after dabbling with swimming and chess
His time in front of a chessboard and in the swimming pool has helped jiu-jitsu exponent Noah Lim strut his stuff on the mats of the LausGroup Event Center in New Clark City en route to a SEA Games gold medal.
The 17-year-old relied on his physical conditioning from his days as a competitive swimmer to checkmate Thailand's Kuntong Suwijak, 18, into submission in the men's Under-62kg final yesterday.
"Jiu-jitsu is very similar to chess, in a sense, because you always have think of the next step," the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student told The New Paper.
"Your opponent is always looking to defend against your technique and I have to think of how to counter that... So I have to think many steps ahead."
Team manager May Ooi, a former swimmer who represented Singapore at the 1992 Olympics and various SEA Games, retired from mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu earlier this year, and she spoke of how conditioning from competitive swimming could have helped athletes like Noah.
"The physical training of swimming helps with the conditioning (of an athlete), in areas like strength and flexibility, and that's very important (in jiu-jitsu)," Ooi said.
"Also, the mental conditioning from competitive swimming is also vital for an athlete."
Ooi went to on extol the benefits of being active in various sports before specialising, citing the examples of herself, Noah and two others from the jiu-jitsu contingent at the biennial meet.
Noah's elder brother Paul and 2018 Asian Games silver medallist and current world champion Constance Lien are former swimmers as well.
"Having participated in multiple sports growing up, (I am aware) that it helps in developing a person or an athlete," said the 42-year-old, who holds a medical degree.
"When I was young, I was playing netball, badminton... all kinds of sports...
"It's important for athletes... I mean, this is proof that kids should just start doing multiple sports, before they start specialising in one.
"There are four of us on the team who are ex-swimmers, so this is some kind of scientific proof behind doing multiple sports, not necessarily swimming... multi sports do help a lot with the development of an athlete."
Thankfully for Noah and Singapore, neither the lure of swimming nor chess was strong enough to prise him away from jiu-jitsu, though he has his brother to thank for that too.
It was the 21-year-old who introduced Noah to the sport.
"Paul inspired me to make the switch... He started a year before me and I used to watch him compete, and I was very inspired to take it up as well," Noah said.
"I have been very passionate about it since."
It wasn't just passion and experience from different sporting backgrounds that helped him triumph at the Games.
It seems a little divine intervention and perhaps familiarity of the opponent can tip the balance as well.
"We were working very hard for this the whole year, so I was quite confident myself," Noah said.
"In the final, I had fought my opponent before at the Thailand (Open in August), so I understood his game, in a sense.
"Also, I was nervous ahead of the match but I was listening to hymns and I was praying a lot, and that helped me to calm down to the point that I wasn't nervous during the fight."
Added Ooi: "Noah fought really well today, he stepped up his game plan and he insisted on it, even though his opponent was trying to block it.
"But he managed to implement his game plan and get it going and choke up his opponent with an omoplata crucifix. It's a sophisticated submission...
"Noah is a very, very good fighter, a very smart fighter too. (This victory) is a great start for him because he's still really young, so he's got a long way to go."
Jiu-jitsu is making its debut at this Games and is an open-belt event, and the Republic ended the first day of bouts with one gold, one silver and two bronzes.
Benjamin Chia lost to Dean Michael Roxas of the Philippines in the men's U-85kg for the silver, while Paul defeated Indonesia's Mastur Imam in the U-69kg category for a bronze.
Teh May Yong clinched the bronze in the women's U-49kg with a win over Indonesia's Nura Amalia.
Singapore will again be represented today, with Lien leading the charge.