By Nicolette Mok
TeamSG boccia player Toh Sze Ning and her ramp assistant Chew Zi Qun tell us more about the intricacies involved in their preparations for the 9th ASEAN Para Games.
Having played the sport for 10 years now, TeamSG boccia athlete Toh Sze Ning could be considered a key figure within Singapore’s para sports scene. Besides boasting regional and international medals, she also earned a historic 4th placing at the 2016 Paralympics, alongside BC3 Pairs partner Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha.
In a sport that is mentally and – to Sze Ning – physically demanding, just how much preparation goes on behind the scenes?
As she looks to better her 2015 ASEAN Para Games (APG) result of two silver medals this year, the 24-year-old and her ramp assistant Chew Zi Qun take time to tell us about their preparations this year.
Born with hypotonic cerebral palsy, Sze Ning competes in the BC3 category. Players in this category require a helmet pointer and ramp to propel the balls on the court.
Zi Qun is a crucial source of support, rendering assistance at training sessions and competitions, as she explains: “Sze Ning will give me the instructions and I’ll follow them. We train together, three times a week. I’ll be her hands to carry out the movements of the ramp.”
“During matches, ramp assistants are not allowed to face the court and communicate with the athletes. We sit there quietly and wait for them to give us instructions,” she continued.
However, off the competition arena, Zi Qun is allowed to provide tips to Sze Ning, and the pair shares a good relationship, as a result of working together for three years now.
Apart from establishing a strong rapport inside and out of the field of play, both athlete and assistant also spend plenty of time working on game simulation, which helps to prepare them for the unpredictability that they will face in this target game.
“We don’t know how an opponent is going to play, so we have to simulate various situations that might happen during the actual game and how to overcome them. This helps the athletes to explore their game choices,” Zi Qun elaborated.
Competition exposure has helped as well, with Sze Ning’s experience at the maiden Paralympics in Rio an important milestone for her. “It allowed me to gained valuable insight on how the top players from around the world competed,” expressed Sze Ning, who also has her sights set on the 2020 Games.
For now though, the pair will give their all for the APG, where they aim to take home gold medals in face of strong home support for their Malaysian rivals in KL. They will count on a special weapon, honed with help of the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) team around them.
“We worked with the SSI’s Sport Psychologist, Eesha Shah, during our pathway towards the Rio Paralympics; we trained with simulation of cheers from the crowd, and that helped us calm down and concentrate,” shared Zi Qun.
With these preparations in place, Sze Ning is certainly ready to assume the mantle of leadership at the APG, being among the more accomplished on the KL-bound team.
Revealing how she hoped to inspire the younger players, she said: “I help them improve by giving pointers based on my own experience and advise them to not give up, as the beginning is always the hardest!”
The 9th ASEAN Para Games will be held from 17 to 23 September, so keeping cheering Sze Ning, Zi Qun, and their teammates on starting from 18 September, as they get ready to do #OneTeamSG proud in KL! Get the latest updates from the Games by following our Team Singapore Facebook page!
More Info: www.myactivesg.com