Pedalling her own brand of positivity

23 April, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Dinah Chan.

The sporting community in Singapore is probably familiar with the story of how national cyclist Dinah Chan had been hit by a car while preparing for the 2013 SEA Games, but she recuperated and returned to her bike within a week.

Dinah went on to seal a coveted victory in her individual time trial event that year, winning Singapore’s first SEA Games cycling gold medal since 1997. In addition to the 2013 gold medal, she had also earlier garnered two bronze medals previously at the 2011 SEA Games.

From her display in 2013, it must seem that this affable 29-year old is made of steel.

The show of resilience might have stemmed from the fact that Dinah has come across more than her fair share of obstacles throughout her sporting career. Having kept near-impossible schedules, suffered from inconveniently timed illnesses, and, of course, that unfortunate traffic accident, her road to triumph was not a smooth-sailing one.

“People think that athletes are healthy but our immune systems are actually way lower than anybody else’s after [intensive training]. If you don’t rest after training, you’ll get sick pretty easily,” explained the former secondary school teacher.

“I really didn’t have time when I was [teaching] in school. I got sick almost every other week, so it’s very hard,” she continued, revealing that juggling competitive cycling with her previous job, which necessitated up to 12 hours a day at school, often took its toll.

It was not until she made the bold decision to go on no-pay leave and embarked on full-time training that she perceived an improvement in her performance on the track.

Prior to making a commitment to cycling, multi-talented Dinah was also one of Singapore’s most promising young triathletes. However, she was often let down by her swimming timings and they kept her off regional podiums.

Instead of feeling disheartened, she chose a positive and pragmatic route. The Asian Beach Games triathlon alumnus bowed out of the sport, and decided to focus on what she was best at.

“I saw more [of a] future in cycling than in triathlon. And I like cycling!” she revealed in a light-hearted manner.

“It is the speed, [the control], the freedom that you get. It has brought me to so many places. On a bicycle you can get to farther places than, say, running or swimming in the pool. It’s so much more exciting,” she added.

Today, she is one of the fastest female cyclists on the continent, having placed fourth at the recent Asian Games in Incheon and participated in several World Championship tournaments.

Attributing her success to the unwavering support she has been receiving from her family and friends, she enthused: “It’s all down to the support from everybody. You don’t want to let the people who have been supporting you down.”

Singapore will certainly expect yet another phenomenal performance from Dinah at the SEA Games this year. Expressing her desire to defend her gold medal in front of the home crowd, she also hopes to put on a good show and increase the local community’s interest in the sport.

“My mum has never seen me race, and it’ll be nice for my friends and relatives to watch. It’s in Singapore, and it’s free!” she remarked.

“Hopefully, if more of us win medals, they will allow us to have more races here, and that will increase the interest in the sport.”

Dinah’s future definitely seems as bright as her optimistic disposition. Having proved her mettle in the face of adversity, she plans to commit at least three more years to cycling.

“After the SEA Games, I will try to get into the Olympics. If I win the Asian Championships, which is in January or February, then I get an automatic slot for Rio [2016]. It’s a long shot, but you don’t know if you don’t try. [I’ll also] probably do World Cups and hopefully more overseas racing, then the 2017 SEA Games and 2018 Asian Games,” she revealed.

Support Dinah’s bid to retain her gold medal during the SEA Games 2015 cycling competition, held from 11th-14th June at Marina Bay South.