Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong

Why I Play” is a fortnightly series showcasing the stories of people who enjoy playing sports. Want to see your sport featured? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter.

Kerstin Ong’s journey to becoming a hurdler started from wanting to skip tuition classes. When she was in Primary 6, she skipped tuition to go for the Singapore Sports School trials and has since gone on to win the gold medal in hurdles for Sports School and then Singapore Management University.

The 22-year-old most recently clinched her second hurdles gold medal in three years at the 2020 Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Track and Field competition in January.

Q: How did you get involved in this sport?

I went competitively into this sport because I joined the Singapore Sports School, and my passion and discipline grew there. I joined the Sports School because of a lucky stumble because of wanting to skip my Chinese tuition class. It just so happened that the Singapore Sports School Direct School Admission trials were happening on that day so that’s how I got involved with my sports, seriously.

Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kerstin Ong got into athletics after going for the Singapore Sports School trial when she was in Primary 6. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Which muscle groups are most involved in this sport? Which part of your body aches the most after a race and why?

Legs, of course. Glutes, hamstring, quads and calves are the most involved. But running kind of needs every muscle groups from arms to the core to legs.and mental strength as well.

Tell me the biggest misconceptions people have of this sport

That as long as I am in the sport, it means I can run a fast 2.4km. But that’s not true, a sprinter can’t exactly do long-distance well, the two events require such different systems.

In playing this sport, what has been your most memorable experience?

I think it’s the experiences I get around the sport, having meals with your teammates after training and being able to travel together. It’s the memories I got to make with people that make it most memorable and fun.

What was your most heartbreaking?

When I failed to make the 2015 SEA Games team when it was held on home ground – the feeling of putting in so much work in hopes to reach your goals but failing to make it in the end. Especially when it was home ground and being able to run in front of your family and friends, your own countrymen.

Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Missing out on representing Singapore for the 2015 SEA Games was the most heartbreaking moment for Kerstin Ong. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Share an inspiring story you have of a tournament or an experience with teammates that. made you love this sport even more.

This happened in March 2019 when I was over in Australia alone for a training stint and a conversation about injuries came about. I was asked what was the worst injury I had. As it was a very minor injury, I received a response, “maybe you are not training hard enough.”

That left a very lasting impression in me and I started to rethink about my training, that maybe it’s true that I haven’t given my all. Maybe there is still so much more that I could give.

Surprisingly, that made me realise that I could do so much more in this sport, magnifying the love I have for this sport.

Was there a time you felt like walking away from the sport? What made you stay?

Yes, honestly, I think it’s right now. I feel like I’m in a crossroads of deciding if I want to continue spending so much time and effort into this sport. The pressure of doing well in school for my future job prospects and thinking for my career is starting to creep up. After all, I can’t be in the sport competitively for too long, it doesn’t pay. I need to start thinking about my future.

But then again, this fire deep inside me is still there, wanting to do well in this sport is still in my mind. As the saying goes, “if you can’t go a day without thinking about it, it means it still means a lot to you, so go for it.”

As much as I am rethinking about it, the passion that still burns brightly in me still makes doing the sport worthwhile, it still brings me fulfilment.

Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kerstin Ong's passion for hurdling has kept her going despite the pressure of future job prospects creeping up. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

What was the worst injury you have experienced?

I think I have been pretty lucky, I think my worst injury could be the lightest injury another person could have. My worst injury has only been a slight sprain of my ankle when I was running on grass. I was out for only two training sessions, and a week later I could race again already.

What life lessons has this sport taught you?

This sport enabled me to develop a commitment to strong work ethics where I am disciplined and responsible in the tasks that I do. Being a national athlete, I have a competitive drive which enables me to overcome challenges and often during high pressured situations. It has built the belief in me that hard work and determination will pay off, and that I will persist even through adverse circumstances.

How can people get involved if they’re interested in this sport?

It’s extremely easy. It starts as simple as starting to run, if you’d like to get proper coaching and guidance, and be able to compete eventually, just head on to the Singapore Athletics website – details are all in the web to find a club, coach or competition.

Can you tell me in one sentence why you love this sport?

The uncontrollable excitement and nerve jitters before a race which I cannot get anywhere else, reminding me that I’m only human, this is why I play.

Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Why I Play series: Hurdler Kerstin Ong. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

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