Switching gears to cycling pays off for Elizabeth Liau
SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship recipient was stagnating as a triathlete, but has thrived since focusing on cycling
Ever since her first triathlon race at the age of eight, Elizabeth Liau had always wanted to represent Singapore on the world stage.
But after seven years in the sport, her dreams inched further away as she found herself stagnating.
From leading the pack to finishing in the middle, she thought that she had reached the end of the road. But little did she know that a path in cycling was beckoning.
Elizabeth, 17, made the switch three years ago and has since thrived in the local and regional cycling scene.
At her first overseas meet, the Asian Cycling Championships (ACC) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in April last year, she finished 10th out of 25 competitors in the women's junior road race category. She also finished seventh in the individual time trial out of 10 competitors.
Last August, she clinched a bronze in the scratch race and a gold in the points race in the junior category of the South East Asia Track Cup Grand Prix in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, despite it being only her sixth time cycling in a velodrome.
Yesterday, the second-year Victoria Junior College student received a boost in her cycling career when she was named among 289 recipients of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship (see story below).
Elizabeth will be getting a $5,000 award under the High Performance Under-18 category, along with 52 other student-athletes.
"I'm ecstatic and feel very grateful to receive this award. I feel more motivated now because people see potential in me and I want to make them proud," she told The New Paper, adding that the financial boost will help in her preparation for next year's SEA Games in Vietnam.
Key to Elizabeth's progress has been her competitive spirit. She benchmarks herself against her male counterparts, always aiming to finish among the boys' top 10.
"When I competed with girls my age at ACC, it opened my eyes. It made me more inspired to train even harder than when I compete against myself or boys at home," she said.
It was this self-motivated attitude that impressed Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) official Adrian Ng, who approached her parents regarding a switch three years ago.
Ng, 39, who was the SCF's head coach from 2014 to 2018, said: "Even though she's small in build (at 1.56m), she's very aggressive when it comes to racing, which is hard to find.
"She's something of a unique character; she's highly motivated, driven and isn't afraid to challenge others bigger than her."
Elizabeth credits her athletic fervour to triathlons, which gave her a strong foundation.
She was introduced to the swim-cycle-run thrill by her parents, who were both triathletes, and joined Fabian Williams Coaching Concepts, a running and triathlon academy, when she was eight years old.
What started off as a hobby became a serious pursuit when Elizabeth realised her potential, finding herself on the podium in every competition she raced in.
"I gave triathlons a try and saw it as an opportunity to have fun because it's a sport that incorporates everything I enjoy. My results surprised me and I realised that I could do this well," she said.
However, as she grew older and competition distances grew longer, she found herself treading water.
Said Elizabeth: "Swimming, my weakest component and the first leg in triathlons, hindered me a lot. It showed my weakness and I'd come up five minutes behind the first person, which made me discouraged."
She was also feeling burnt out from her intense schedule. She would have eight running and five swimming sessions a week, held before and after lessons in secondary school.
She spent the least time cycling, just four hours every weekend, yet it was consistently her strongest leg of each race.
"It was a factor that helped me switch (sports) because my best leg was on a par with boys, which showed that I had the ability and that I should train solely on cycling and put all my efforts into that."
With her parents' support, Elizabeth went for time trials held by the SCF in 2017 and was recruited into the national set-up.
Ng added that while it might be too early to tell if Elizabeth will be able to achieve regional glory, he believes that she has the right attitude.
He is now general manager of ProCyclingSG, an SCF initiative to realise its vision of having a Singaporean cyclist at Tour de France and an Asian Games gold medallist by 2030.
Said Ng: "She has the in-built values that cannot be taught, and I'm very impressed with that."