Teen triathlete Emma follows in dad's footsteps
Teen triathlete Emma, who is also coached by her father, will represent Singapore at YOG
Once triathlete Emma Middleditch tackles the biggest race of her teenage life at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Argentina on Sunday, she can channel her focus to the next thing on her agenda: to beat her father, a fellow triathlete, on the bike.
It is not an improbable task - she has already outdone James Middleditch, who is also her coach, in running and swimming.
"My days are numbered," James, 48, said with a smile.
"It's great because a few years ago when she was smaller, I was faster but now she has caught up with me. Judging by this morning's training, the bike is not far off."
Those words come as encouragement for Emma, who sees surpassing her dad as a huge motivation.
Their passion for the sport is also shared by Emma's older sister, Louisa, making triathlons a family affair for the Middleditch household.
While this has stirred some friendly competition in the family, the presence of family members by her side has also helped spur Emma when the training gets tough.
The 16-year-old said: "It definitely helps to have a dad who is very supportive. He's my coach so he gives me advice.
"It's more motivating because training alone can be very boring and frustrating. My sister, who is now in university, also did triathlons and would come for training with us, which I really enjoyed. Because it's someone else to help push you and motivate you."
Enduring training and pushing each other through races has also helped forge stronger bonds in the family.
James said: "You can go out, train together, when we go for a race, it's not just one of us, it's all of us. It creates a bit of a team spirit."
Emma's interest in triathlons was sparked after she saw her father participating in races, and she soon joined him in training, embarking on her first triathlon when she was eight.
She came in fifth in her age group at the 2010 Bintan Triathlon, and her passion for the sport blossomed.
In June, the French School of Singapore student booked her berth at the YOG, after coming in first at the Subic Bay ASTC Asian YOG qualifier in the Philippines.
NOT FIXATED ON RESULTS
Despite her strong showing in the qualifier, she is not too fixated on results in Argentina, saying: "I'm not too sure what to expect and I don't know where I fall.
"I'd like a top 10 or better if possible, but I'm just going to try my best and have fun."
As she realises her dream of competing in the YOG that started three years ago, Emma believes that this experience will help her to grow as an athlete.
She said: "It's been quite a few years since I had it as a goal, so I'm really amazed that I managed to get there. I do see it as an important stepping stone and hopefully, through this experience, I'll know more about the sport and the experience will help with future races."
The ambitious teenager harbours hopes of participating in the Olympics, hoping to progress through regional meets such as the South-east Asian Games and Asian Games.
She knows that reaching those goals will not come easy, and her hunger for success is evident.
There are times when her parents have to remind her to take a break on her rest days.
She said: "I really want to train because I really want to improve and be at the top of my game, but I try to understand his point of view, so we try to compromise."
James feels that Emma has made significant improvements since starting out eight years ago.
He said: "One of the difficulties is making sure that she doesn't over-train and sometimes we have to hold her back and say 'no', today is a rest day.
"She's definitely progressed and developed, particularly in maturity.
"She's a hard worker so it's quite easy because she wants to train and she's hungry for it."