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Chase the dream: Loh Jia Yi

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Say Ahoy to this young and inspired sailor.

He picked up sailing because he just wanted to put his swimming certificate to good use. He was only 8 years old then.

He liked sailing so much that by the end of Primary 3, Loh Jia Yi had enrolled for weekend classes at the National Sailing Centre.

Now 17, the Raffles Institution (RI) student said: "When I first started to sail, I liked it because it feels a lot more free at sea. It's just you, your boat and your sail."

Almost nine years after he picked up the sport, Jia Yi is now a national sailor who has clinched at least three world titles, including the 2012 Sri Lanka Optimist Asian Championships, the 2013 Italy Optimist World Championships and the 2014 Portugal ISAF Youth World Championships.

The 2014 Portugal ISAF Youth World Championships was the most memorable competition for him. He said: "It was my first year sailing that boat so I wasn't expecting much from that event. At the end, on the last day, I was tied for first and I won the last race."

He spoke of his experience: "I trained for six months, the rest of the people had been sailing for two to four years. It was an under-18 category and I was 16, everybody was quite old there and I was the one who 'just graduated from the small boat' so I was an underdog."

What is his biggest challenge?

"When I first started, the biggest challenge was to probably manage my studies with sailing. Up to now and even in the future, it is and will still be challenging so I will have to keep finding the perfect balance," said Jia Yi, who trains three to five days a week, each session lasting three to five hours.



JIA YI (RIGHT) AND JONATHAN YEO (LEFT) COMPETED AT THE RECENT 17TH ASIAN GAMES INCHEON AND CLINCHED THE BRONZE.

PHOTO CREDITS: PEH SIONG SAN

It helps that Jia Yi's parents are supportive of his sporting ambition. Even when they cannot travel to see him compete overseas, they will watch his races online.

"In 2012, there was a world championship in Dominican Republic that I (attended). They were awake during the Dominican Republic time, which is 12 hours behind Singapore. For all three days, they watched the races from 11pm to 6am, then they went to work," Jia Yi recalled.

 

JIA YI AND HIS PARENTS ON THEIR RECENT HOLIDAY TO ITALY, FRANCE, SWITZERLAND AND DUBAI.

PHOTO CREDIT: LOH JIA YI

The next few years look set to be more challenging, as Jia Yi will be taking the 'A' Levels next year, and is due to enlist for National Service after that.

Neverthess, Jia Yi, who is also one of the athletes sponsored by Samsung, has his eyes on representing Singapore at the Olympics one day. For now, he is building his sailing foundation and hopes to qualify Singapore for the Olympics, and win as well.

JIA YI IS TAKING BABY STEPS TO GET TO HIS DREAM.