Written by: Fabian William
Edited by: Shawn Wee
And the 2017 National Schools season ended with a bang. Dora walked away with yet another gold medal, bringing her current haul to 13. To date she has set 6 records (championship records and age group records), of which 4 still remain.
Having walked into the world of race walking barely 4 years ago, Dora has gone from being a face in the crowd to a poster girl of race walking. Many opportunities have come her way, such as working with mental skills coach Bay Hansen, who has helped her sharpen her mind to up her ante in her game. From having to compete with school mates, she got to rub shoulders with Olympic medalist Dane Bird Smith and other world class race walkers in Queensland, Australia. From training with local coaches Tanabal and Peter Back, to going under the tutelage of renowned Olympic coach Dave Smith.
People have started noticing her and she has gotten the opportunity to feature in a local documentary (scheduled to air toward the end of the year). Quite a fair bit for a young girl who is still relatively new to the sport of race walking. Despite all the trials and tribulations of her life, she has carried herself with such ardour and demeanor that is truly becoming of a sportswoman.
Not only has Dora developed as an athlete, but she has also managed to inspire many more to walk the walk like herself.
First were her team mates from school, Shantel, Marc, and Michael.
Shantel was initially jumping around events. It was until she joined walking that she found something she was good at. While initially always in Dora’s shadow, the turning point came when she finished in top 8 in the 2015 National Schools Meet. From there, she dedicated herself more to training, and the fruits came one year later where she joined Dora to cast shadows on their competitors – Shantel came in 2nd behind Dora that year. The success continued as Shantel secured 2nd spot again this year despite having taken a break for school.
Marc (Meng Hong) was always the gung-ho guy who dived into every race at a suicidal pace reminiscent of the great Steve Prefontaine. He so badly wanted to win that he pushed his limits as often as he could. Regardless of whether it was a run or walk event, his streak continued. Eventually he managed to control his reckless repertoire and walked himself a silver medal at the 2016 national schools 1500m race walk finals amid a strong field of competitors.
The nature of sport is that not all stories and lessons come from winning. Michael (Ming Hui) was a finding his feet as a cross country runner, but struggled against the powerhouse schools. He finally found his calling in race walking, joining his team mates. Always willing to put in the hard work required, Michael walked brilliantly alongside Marc in 2016. However, despite coming in 3rd behind Marc, the judges had ruled him to have committed a foul worthy of a disqualification, losing his medal opportunity.
The next victim of Dora’s magnetic appeal was none other than Rachel. Rachel, an aspiring sprinter and triathlete with TeamFabian, had taken part in multifarious events as part of her developmental exposure. She had showed great tenacity in everything she tried, and did well in the local triathlon circuit, ending up on the podium ever so often. However, success on the track simply kept eluding her and she was determined to find her place on it.
One fine day she was put alongside Dora and introduced to race walking. She astounded us with her fluid movements that were iconic of racewalkers - that swift pelvic drop and drive propelled her with ease as she trailed Dora closer that anyone else in the workout that ensued. After convincing her parents and getting their blessings, Rachel walked into the arena of race walking. She went on to set the 2017 National Schools ‘C’ Division 1500m race walk record in a time of 8:10:44 mins.
Subsequently came sisters Natalie and Kimberly. Both sisters were in FWCC’s developmental programme and frequently witnessed Dora blitzing her speed training segments. With the support of their dad, both Natalie and Kimberly gave race walking a go and decided to take it seriously. Taking part in the kids' categories in the local circuit, they showed their potential by beating their competition. With such dedication, it’s just a matter of time before you see two new stars emerge.
Joelle was a unique addition to the squad. One day at training, she was spotted as a lone figure on the track. Barely 5 minutes after having spotted her both Dora and I glanced at each other with our eyes gleaming, knowing that we had just spotted another potential race walker. She approached Joelle to introduce herself and invited her to train together. Joelle pointed us out to her mum on the stands, who after a quick chat with, gave Joelle her approval. Just like that, we had another race walking genius on the squad. Despite taking a short hiatus from TeamFABIAN training due to time constraints, she found time to join back early this year and has managed to walk her way to a new age group record this year. She walked with Rachel (with whom she’s school mates) and took home the silver in the 1500m race walk event at the Nationals Schools Meet in 8:12:03 mins.
Shaun Teo was always training under FWCC since his primary school days. Being of a slightly smaller stature compared to his peers he always missed out on making the team or the finals. But this kid had something many didn’t - he possessed true grit and determination. He kept exploring all the various disciplines that the coaches threw at him until the day we saw his dad race walking past us. Mr Teo was a very stoic and solitary individual who never once pressured Shaun into following his ways, but he was there every step of the way to be that all important pillar of support. Needless to say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Barely 6 months after being introduced to the art of race walking, Shaun claimed his own against the big boys in competition. While he has a lot more to learn in comparison to his competitors, he is one to look out for. His seemingly docile and calm disposition doesn’t do justice to his tenacity when the gun goes off. He has literally fought his way to have his own podium space, something he truly deserves. Unfortunately, in this year’s National Meet, he was judged to have committed a foul and was disqualified despite coming in 2nd.
Malcolm was a silent warrior, always in the shadows. Initially part of the SJI sprints team, Malcolm made the decision to transfer over to race walking after years of not making the cut for the sprinters. While not technically sound at first, he slowly picked up the sport and has represented SJI in the 1500m race walk event. His dedication to honing this craft is astounding, and his antics garnered the support of all his friends. The SJI boys gave the loudest cheers for Malcolm during his event. He finished 15th with a respectable timing of 8:37.51 mins.
Zhu Yu was our last addition to the squad this year. Hailing from the CJC Sprint Squad, this rather dismayed young lady felt she was always in the shadows of her peers and was open to exploring race walking. 4 months later, she donned the CJC colours and was at the starting line of the 3000m ‘A’ Division race walk at the National Schools meet. She clocked a personal best of 23:19.35 for that meet.
Dora has painstakingly walked every step of the way with her squad and helms the team with pride, ensuring they are groomed in the best manner possible. She assists the coaches by looking after them during trainings and is the undisputed authority figure who mothers them but is also the one to discipline them. She ensures that true sportsmanship prevails and character development above all else is adhered to.
She, more than anyone else, knows very well that medals don’t matter - it’s the process that defines you. It is something that I constantly preach to her, but she personally experienced while training with world class athletes during her stint in Australia. Since then life has taken a turn as we walk down this chosen path. Some may come while others may go, but the strong few remain and take one step at a time toward their common goals. Rest assured we will never walk alone.