The athlete behind the fighter
06 December 2017
By Nicolette Mok
TeamSG muay thai athlete Cheryl Gwa talks about her sporting career, revealing the committed and diligent sportsperson that lies behind the fearsome fighter in the ring.
She made her international debut in October last year at the Asian Beach Games, bringing home a bronze medal. After which, she followed that performance with a top-eight finish at the 2017 Muaythai World Championships and another bronze medal at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
Cheryl Gwa winning her Bronze at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
Having been involved in the sport for about nine years now, Cheryl Gwa is an up-and-coming TeamSG muay thai fighter, the only female one in our national set-up.
She is aggressive and tactical in the ring; relentless in her pursuit of victory. Outside of the arena, she hardly jokes; her responses are concise.
However, as she opened up on her muay thai career and ambitions, we discovered the disciplined, diligent, and dedicated athlete that lay behind the tough fighter.
Professing to spend “five to six times a week” in the gym, the 27-year-old admitted that her training and competition schedules took up most of her time. Currently working part-time while looking for a full-time role, she also makes time for her family, friends, and pet dog – a corgi named Bunji – outside of training.
Cheryl and her dog Bunji
“[Muay thai] is not just some violent fighting sport. It takes much more than that. It takes discipline, technique and dedication. It’s not just about the brawling,” Cheryl asserted.
“The sport has made me more determined. It has taught me that, if you want something, you need to work hard towards it in spite of the challenges in front of you. Be it the values or techniques and skills, I hope to achieve better. I hope to grow as a person through the sport, and help my teammates as well,” she revealed.
Indeed, beyond her own training, Cheryl also aspires to do her part in developing muay thai in Singapore, raising its profile among the masses by guiding the less experienced trainees in her gym, as well as through her own achievements in the international arena.
With the sport growing locally after its recent inclusion in the SEA Games, she said: “People are starting to see beyond the apparent violence. And when someone from a small country like ours goes onto the world stage and brings home the medals, people will see that we are competitive athletes in a high-performance sport. Despite being a small country, we can hold our own against bigger and more experienced countries too.”
“I would like to progress and grow each year, and compete as much as I can. I feel that experience is very important, especially at an international level,” she continued, adding that she was targeting a spot in the semi-final at next year’s World Championships.
Eventually, she also hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games in 2024 - the year that muay thai is expected to make its debut, with the sport having been granted provisional Olympic status last year.
“It’s good that the sport is given this kind of recognition now. It gives muay thai athletes around the world the motivation to strive towards something bigger, should they want to. Before this, muay thai was just about competing and gaining more experience. We’re moving up the rungs and this gives us more motivation to aspire towards something even beyond the World Championships,” she noted.
Cheryl and her fellow female Muay Thai fighters
Within more immediate circles, TeamSG’s only female muay thai fighter is also looking forward to being joined by more girls soon as the sport’s presence grows from strength to strength.
She expressed: “There will be more female athletes on the national team; just give it some time. I think you’ll see more very soon!”
Cheryl will be flying our flag high in Mexico next May, at the Muaythai World Championships. Keep the #OneTeamSG support for her coming in and follow our Team Singapore Facebook page for the latest updates!