Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more. Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook.
Name: Tiffany Ong (@Tiffyyi)
Occupation: Student and national athlete
Diet: I eat as much as I want but I try to have a balanced diet, which is to include fruits and vegetables.
Training: Four times a week during off season, and six times a week when there is an upcoming tournament.
Q: Were you always an active kid?
A: I played field hockey competitively; apart from that, I did a bit of badminton, soccer, basketball, tennis and golf. It was mostly just going out to the playground to run, rollerblade, cycle, climb and jump over stuff; basically everything my older brothers and neighbours did.
How did you get into ice hockey and what led you to join the Singapore women’s national ice hockey team?
A junior and ex-field hockey teammate of mine was part of the Singapore women’s national ice hockey team. She tried to convince me several times that it’s really fun and totally my thing to do, but it was hard to find time due to other sporting commitments. Finally one day I decided to tone down on trainings and step onto the ice. After a few practices, I was invited to join the national women’s team for training.
There weren’t many options for ice training here other than “learn to play” lessons at JCube ice rink, and there isn’t a club I could join. People just play in scrimmages and mixed-gender leagues, so I took the opportunity to train with them and it has led me to where I am today.
What do you like about the sport?
I like that I get to be on the ice and enjoy the coolness of the rink for once, especially in Singapore. But more importantly, the community is one that makes you feel welcome. The people are really warm and helpful, it’s almost like an extended family. The rink becomes a place that you enjoy going to.
Most of all, I like the pace of the game, the adrenaline of skating really fast (and not being able to stop) and just having a team to play with.
You represented Singapore in the SEA Games twice in field hockey. How does it feel like to represent the nation? Any pressure?
I represented Singapore in the SEA Games for field hockey in 2015 and 2017. I might be heading to the SEA Games this year for a third time for floorball if I make it to the team (the squad will be finalised by mid-August). This is something that I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life, an experience that is hard to get for sports, especially in a team sport.
Pressure? Nah, I think of it as motivation. It is something that I choose to do out of passion and fun, if I take that as pressure then it becomes negative.
[Note: Women’s ice hockey is not yet a medal event at the SEA Games.]
What are some of your best sporting achievements thus far?
Getting a bronze in the 2019 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Top Division for ice hockey and qualifying for this year’s Women’s World Floorball Championships (pending selection outcome) would be some of the best achievements for me.
How do you balance training as a national athlete, studies and a social life?
Honestly, I just go with the flow – do what I have to do, depending on what’s most important first, but of course I’ll prioritise sports unless there’s an exam haha. However, cutting down on social life is one thing that I’ll have to do in order to fit training and studies in the schedule.
What are some of the challenges you face as an athlete?
Trying to get ice hockey equipment is one of the challenges I face. We have to get our equipment shipped in as there isn’t a physical store selling ice hockey equipment in Singapore and it’s usually pretty expensive when you add up all the equipment, gears and shipping cost.
Apart from that, ice time is also quite expensive, usually ranging from $25 to $30 per hour for each team member and it’s all self-funded. As a result, training slots are limited. However, the most challenging factor would be getting enough sleep. Post training is usually when I would catch up with friends, have supper and study, and this compromises my rest time.
Ice hockey is quite rare in Singapore, how do you hope to make it more known?
By just playing the sport and posting about it on Instagram for example is a good way to make the sport more known. It is actually an effective way because now people who follow me and my teammates, who have never heard about ice hockey in Singapore before, now know we have an ice hockey team.
I think by encouraging people from a different community especially the youths to try out the sport, their peers and colleagues will also learn about the existence of ice hockey and maybe even pick it up. It is a good social and healthy activity even for adults.
Was there ever a time where you did not feel confident about yourself?
Plenty of times. Playing sports at a competitive level requires me to train and build muscles and do all the “un-ladylike” stuff. It has made me feel insecure about my body and sometimes I would think to myself, if I were to pick up a more feminine hobby when I was younger perhaps I won’t have such huge thighs or arms and that I’ll be slimmer and more attractive.
Do you get any comments about your body?
Since young, people have always compared me to the boys because I was stronger, faster and more masculine compared to the girls who were into more feminine stuff. They will say stuff like, “She’s a man”, “She belongs to the guys’ team”, “She’s got bigger quads than the guys” etc.
How did you overcome all of that and become more confident?
Seeing how more and more females are into fitness or sports made me feel like I’m normal and it has made me realised that being sporty is actually attractive too. Being good at what I do also gives me confidence and it translates into every part of my life.
What are your plans for ice hockey, and also after you graduate from your studies?
I plan to keep playing ice hockey. Hopefully I get to play overseas someday and after I graduate I would choose to work in a sports-related industry.