10 August 2018
By Wong Jeng Teng
Just like any decisions in life, TeamSG sailor Ryan has to be quick on his feet when battling the wind, current, and his competitors at sea.
A race is usually won by the fastest runner. However, when you are on a sailboat at sea facing up to 50 other competitors, speed is not the only factor to winning.
“Sailing involves a lot of strategy and needs one to think a lot and make a lot of quick decisions,” explained TeamSG sailor Ryan Lo.
“In a race, we’ll be racing against not only the different variables, like the wind condition, current, [and] tide, [but] you’re also racing against [possibly] 50 other racers. You have to take into account all this information, try to process it, and act on it very quickly,” he continued.
This challenging scenario is not an easy one to face, but Ryan seems to take it all in his stride. After all, strategic thinking is a “natural” skill to him.
He expressed: “I think strategy comes into play in your daily life - how you interact with people, your studies, and everything. You use that experience to help with your sailing.”
“For example, we can discuss risk management. In everyday life, you always make decisions, and you compute the risk you have to take, and the same goes [for sailing]. But you have to make the choice much faster,” Ryan pointed out.
While tackling the various elements at sea appear to be well within Ryan’s grasp, he shared that the experience he had garnered over the years played its part, having been a sailor since he was seven.
“I was curious [about sailing], so I decided to pick it up and just try it. Once I started racing, it became really fun and I didn’t look back from there,” he revealed.
Ryan continued: “Your coach can tell you the basic strategy of a race, but once you start racing, things can change, so you have to adapt. After many races, you become more experienced [with different situations].”
A double gold medallist at last year’s SEA Games, Ryan also provided some insight on what goes through his mind during competition.
“Usually, I have a pre-race routine where I use imagery to plan out my strategy. I look at what the wind pattern is like, where the current is coming from, how strong the current is, and which part of the start line is more favourable,” he explained.
“During the race, I’ll be thinking of going fast. You always have to go fast first, then [once] you’re ahead, it’s much easier to decide how you want to position yourself,” he added.
Blazing toward the World Championships, Asian Games, and beyond
Ryan with his coach Fernando Alegre after he won the gold at the 2017 SEA Games.
The sport naturally has its physical demands too, as the 1.78m-tall athlete was keen to reveal. Having worked hard in the gym to achieve his ideal weight of
84kg, Ryan will be looking to better his performance at the upcoming 2018 World Championships starting at the end of July.
His visibly strong physique aside, Ryan still believes that the mind plays a bigger role in his sport, especially at major competitions where most of his rivals already boast skills that rank them amongst the world’s best.
“Once you go to [the major games], the pressure is quite high. Whoever can handle the pressure, not only from the media, [but from] yourself and other competitors, [will manage to perform],” he explained.
With the help of psychologists from the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), Ryan has been working on keeping his mind sharp when competing, covering areas such as his peripheral vision and multi-tasking abilities, all to better his performance at sea.
In fact, the 21-year-old trusts that his support team, consisting of the SSI experts, his coach, and his parents, gives him an edge, and he is feeling confident heading into the Asian Games.
13-year-old Ryan won the Bronze medal in the Optimist Men's One Person Dinghy in the 2010 Asian Games.
Having won a bronze medal in the Optimist Individual category during his Asian Games debut in 2010, Ryan stated: “I believe that the competitions I’ve gone through so far are all significant to my ultimate goal, [and] they’re all just stepping stones for me.”
Follow Ryan on his journey towards the Asian Games in Indonesia, happening from 18 August to 2 September. For the latest updates and exclusive features, stay tuned to our Team Singapore Facebook, Instagram and website!
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