Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gymnast ‘Tay’ Makes History and Brings Glory to Singapore

It is not usual for a Singaporean, let alone a student, to trigger waves on the international radar. But, one student from NYP has successfully done so. Third-year Diploma in Sports & Wellness Management student, Terry Tay, has recently been honoured with a gymnastics move (the “Tay”) named after him by the International Gymnastics Federation, Federation Internationale De Gymnastique (FIG).

This makes him the FIRST gymnast from South-east Asia to have a skill named after him in the FIG Code of Points! Terry was taking part in the 44th artistic gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, held in September 2013, where the move was performed and inaugurated in the FIG Code of Points.

I sat down with Terry to discover all about the origins of the move, and the man behind it all.

What got you started in gymnastics? 
What got me into gymnastics were my parents. They enrolled me into a gymnastics class called ‘Tumble Tots’ when I was around 5 to 6 years old. In Primary 1 or 2, I had my first inter-school competition, and from there, I slowly worked my way up. I went for my first gymnastics trial for the international team in Primary 6 and (thankfully) got in. This was how I first entered the foray of competing overseas.

What is your training schedule like? 
We train from Monday till Saturday. You could say it’s like our second job. We usually have school from 9am to 5pm, and then we train from 5pm to 10pm. So, you can imagine it’s pretty hectic, but you eventually find ways to adapt.

You are competing on the world stage. Did you ever feel daunted or pressured?
Every country will have different styles of training. I don’t feel intimidated, because as long as I know I have given my best shot, that’s all that matters. I don’t really feel daunted by the other big players. In fact, it’s an eye-opener for us to see the different styles and variations of moves being carried out. It’s interesting to see how different gymnasts add a different style or flavour to a certain move.

What were your challenges, and how did you manage to overcome them?
I think for any gymnast, the main challenge is to successfully carry out your routine during the competition. When we learn a skill, we can fumble during training, but if we fumble on the competition floor, then the training will come to naught. If you wobble a little, that’s fine. But, the main thing is to finish off well. This is the challenge.

Usually, as with any sport, exhaustion and fatigue are all part and parcel of training. The reason why we go through so much blood, sweat and tears is to put on our carefully practised routine on the world’s stage, and try to get into the finals, which only the top 8  of around 200 people will do. It’s quite crazy, but if a gymnast has done his training with discipline and rigour, the effort will pay off most of the time.

I’ve seen the ‘Tay’ Move. Though it looks easy to do, it’s actually rather difficult. How did this move come about?
See Terry explaining his “Tay” move here

Yeah, tell me about it! (Laughs)

Before every competition, there will be a judges’ meeting. During the meeting, our team’s judge noticed some gymnasts displaying atypical moves that involved the V-Cross position (flipping and ending in a V position). It was quite an outstanding move. After deliberation, we decided to perform it. In Singapore, we often do a lot of conditioning and strengthening, and I have actually done this move before. I decided to give it a shot, because it didn’t hinder me from my other performances. However, it is a higher level difficulty skill so I knew I had to execute it well.

Basically, the ‘Tay’ is an adaptation of an original sequence known as the Azarian Cross. As I’ve already done it in Singapore, I didn’t really feel nervous or anxious. It all came down to practice and it definitely was not something that I could suddenly pull off. This move really goes against the normal human limits. Usually in gymnastics, our arms and knees have to be all straight at all times. It’s necessary in gymnastics routines, and that’s what made the “Tay” so difficult.

For a certain move to be recognized by FIG, it has to be executed perfectly with grace and stability on a world stage. Also, no gymnast should have ever performed this move on the world’s stage before; you need to be the first to do so.

Did you ever expect that you would have a move named after you?

When you perform a move at world level, you have to perform it with minimal deductions. So basically, a move needs to be performed perfectly for it to be recognised. Thus, one can perform any skill, but if done wrongly or unskillfully, it won’t be recognized. So in order to perfect a move, we basically eat, sleep and think gymnastics. Expectations are definitely there, but whether we meet them or not, it depends on how much hard work we have put in. I believe that if we put our hearts and minds to something, it is possible to achieve whatever we want.
Terry’s Signature V-Cross Move

What have you learned throughout the experience? 
During the time in Antwerp, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with many people from different walks of life. The interactions gave me a broader view of the world and how people live in their own cultures and nationalities. I saw that although everyone is a competing athlete, we all know that there’s more than gymnastics to life.

In gymnastics, one can never stop learning new skills. There are so many different moves for us to master, but so far no one has ever finished mastering everything. This is because we can only perform that many elements (or skills) in competitions.

For me, gymnastics should not be a struggle, but more of an opportunity to learn, have fun and keep physically fit. Lastly, I believe that if you have proper dedication and persistence, you really can achieve your goals!

As a gymnast, you must have a very intense schedule. How do you juggle your studies, social life and sports activities?
I don’t find my social life hampered. After training, my teammates and I would usually chill and have dinner, so I get to socialise. Weekends are also a great opportunity for me and my school friends to catch up.

As for studying, late nights are a way of life for me. It’s already ingrained in my system, though I do know it’s not very healthy! I try to cut down on time-wasting whenever I can. During breaks in school, I use my time productively on schoolwork instead of chit-chatting. In essence, you just have to set clear priorities on what really matters to you. I try to have a balanced lifestyle. If I do not get my rest, it’s going to take a toll on my overall well-being.

I’m also grateful for my friends and especially my tutors, because they are really understanding of my situation and will help me catch up with important school work. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to go to a poly, as I found it to be conducive for my goals and dreams.
Terry at his Teaching Enterprise Project (TEP) attachment

What motivates you as a gymnast?
Firstly, I think the community support around me is the key motivation. They include my family, my team leader Gabriel Gan, and my friends and lecturers in NYP. Gabriel has set a very good standard for me. He’s 28 years old, almost 10 years older than I am, and he had a back injury but came back after 10 years of rest and recovery. In gymnastics, if one were to even take a two-month break, it will be hard to compete again at competition level. Well, despite the limitations, Gabriel still has the drive and a burning passion for the sport, so I admire him a lot.  His story continues to serve as an inspiration for me whenever I feel like giving up.

Secondly, looking back at my past achievements and journey of growth really gives me the drive to continue what I have been doing. The gymnastics’ path is a long one, and each accomplishment is a stepping stone to success. When I look back at my last ten years, and see how far I have come, I think: “Wow, that’s a great journey”.

How has NYP supported you in attaining your aspirations?
My lecturers and tutors have certainly helped me cope with my modules whenever I have to be absent from class due to training or competitions. They usually know that I will be missing out on certain lectures and will offer to coach me when I return to school. Sometimes, lecturers may not be able to comprehend the lifestyle I lead, but they do support it fully and are usually interested to know what competitions or events I will be attending next.

My friends in NYP have also been of great help to me. Like the lecturers, they would help me take down notes for classes I have missed, offer me their notes for additional reference, and even make time to hang out together whenever I am free.

NYP also has excellent sports facilities. My friends and I would usually go to the school gym for maintenance work such as for muscle recovery, to facilitate my gymnastics training. NYP is quite a conducive place for doing my extra training, because the gym, the running track and swimming pool are all in one place! And, it’s near to my gymnastics training ground in Bishan.
Terry with his classmates

What is the next step for you, Terry?
It’s really amazing that I have a move named after me; I hope this skill that I have created can inspire the younger gymnasts and sports enthusiasts to achieve more. If one trains hard and perseveres, they really can work miracles.

I’m actually taking a one semester break in NYP to compete in the Asian & Commonwealth Games in 2014. There’s also going to be another World Championships in China that I will compete in next year. I believe these competitions serve as a good gauge to see where I stand on the global platform.

What is your ultimate dream in gymnastics?
Well, it is to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Besides that, I actually want to open my own gymnastics club to help promote the sport in Singapore. I would like to do that after I retire though.

If there were more than 24 hours in a day, where would you devote that extra time to?
I think I would dedicate it to having more family time. As mentioned, my schedule is pretty hectic. I leave the house at 7am and reach home at 11pm. So usually, they’ll all be asleep by then and that leaves little opportunity for family time. Sometimes I reach home at 11pm, and then I do my projects till 3 in the morning, then wake up again at 7am, and it’s crazy.

Do you get people coming up to you to say “Hi” after seeing you shoot to glory?
Ever since I returned to Singapore, I haven’t really been out about much, as I am really busy. But, I seem to get glances or stares from some people. I had my neighbours, primary and secondary school friends contact me because they probably saw my story in The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao. In general, I do get contacted more by the media and the people I know, rather than random strangers on the street.

For me, what really made the difference was when the small kids from my gymnastics training group say, “Can you show me the ‘Tay’?” So, I could see that the news travels. However, ultimately it’s not so much about me, but it’s about how we can go forward together.

By Ho Khin Wai, Year 3, Diploma in Banking & Financial Services


Khin Wai started writing for NYP Portal in 2011 out of interest and was soon "addicted" to it. He has also written book reviews for Straits Times YA Classified. Besides writing, he loves singing and has performed for various events in NYP under NYP Soundcard.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and inspiring interview. Keep it up!