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Skateboarder Feroze Rahman hopes to represent Singapore in the Olympics

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After his debut at international skateboarding competition Tampa Pro, Feroze now has his eyes on Tokyo 2020.

It was supposed to be his debut as a professional skateboarder. 

Singaporean skateboarder Feroze Rahman spent a month preparing for Tampa Pro 2019, an annual professional skateboarding competition held in Florida, United States. For most competitive skateboarders, the invite-only competition is the ultimate skateboarding competition to strive towards. 

Unfortunately, two weeks before the competition in March this year, Feroze injured himself from a bad fall. The 28-year-old also dislocated his shoulder while competing in the first round of the competition. 

His injuries hardly dampened his spirits, despite being unable to complete the subsequent rounds in the competition. 

"To be at Tampa Pro is an achievement. I know I could have done better if I wasn't injured, but these things happen," said Feroze, who is currently working in the airline industry. 

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After his debut in Tampa Pro 2019, Feroze is officially recognised as a professional in the industry.
PHOTO CREDIT: FEROZE RAHMAN 

Unknown to many, Feroze has been skateboarding over the past 10 years. He has competed in various regional and international competitions, including the KIA World Extreme Games and Far'n High Skateboarding World Cup in France. 

To date, he has more than 10 titles to his name. 

A week after the eventful competition, Youth.SG met Feroze at Somerset Skatepark where he frequently trains. It was difficult to tell that he was still recovering from his recent injuries, and he was in good spirits as we spoke. 

Feroze first picked up the sport at the age of seven. After his father bought a skateboard for him, he often joined two of his brothers, Farris and Firdaus, in the skate park on the weekends, performing basic tricks like kickflips and the 50-50 grind. 

As his brothers continued skateboarding professionally, Feroze took up football as a co-curricular activity in primary school, which he continued playing till polytechnic. 

While he enjoyed playing the team sport, he was concerned about balancing his time between trainings and his personal life. 

The Republic Polytechnic graduate shared: "At one point, I considered pursuing a professional football career. But football training is held five times a week, with matches on Saturdays. There is practically little to no 'me time'. 

"After weighing the pros and cons, I eventually lost interest." 

At 18, he returned to his first love, skateboarding. He was thrilled to be back at the skate parks with his brothers after almost a decade. 

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Feroze's parents (seated) have been a strong pillar of support for Feroze (second from right) and his three siblings.
PHOTO CREDIT: FEROZE RAHMAN 

Despite only spending a year catching up on his skills, he felt confident enough to take on competitions. 

"I told myself, if my brothers can compete and win, so can I," said Feroze, who cited himself as the competitive one among his brothers. 

In 2010, he took part in his first overseas skateboarding competition, the Asian X Games, in Shanghai. Coming in third place made him feel confident to compete again. One year later, he emerged first place in the same competition

Feeling encouraged by his recent wins and knowing that Singaporeans tend to be underrepresented in skateboarding, Feroze felt driven to venture beyond Asian competitions. 

Soon, he had his eyes on competing against internationally-acclaimed skateboarders in competitions held in the United States and Europe. 

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Feroze (right) looks up to professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler (left). They met up several times while participating in international competitions.
PHOTO CREDIT: FEROZE RAHMAN 

But as his determination for the sport grew, Feroze realised he needed to find ways to fund his skateboarding pursuits, which can cost him over $10,000 each time he competes overseas. 

He trained hard to increase his chances of getting sponsorships from major skateboarding brands. In 2013, he started a skateboarding line, Sotong Skateboards, with his brothers to support himself. 

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Since 2011, Feroze received sponsorships from Vans and Stance after they noticed his exceptional skateboarding skills.
PHOTO CREDIT: FEROZE RAHMAN 

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Sotong Skateboards' self-designed skateboards proved to be popular as stocks often sold out in days.
PHOTO CREDIT: SOTONG SKATEBOARDS 

Feroze is also thankful for his father, who funded a large part of his skateboarding career when he first started out. 

"He has been investing on my brothers and I since we were young. He did not expect us to make a name for ourselves, but we did," shared Feroze. 

While Feroze is heartened to see more Singaporean youths picking up skateboarding as a hobby, he had his fair share of criticism. 

"Maybe it's because of the way we dress that presents a rugged image – skating shirtless, our street fashion," explained Feroze. "But people should be allowed to do what they want if it is not harming anyone else. We are skating within a constrained space." 

The experienced skateboarder added that attitudes towards the sport are not as bad as they used to be five to 10 years ago. 

"Although the stigma has mellowed down, there is still a long way to go in changing perceptions." 

Even some of his relatives expressed doubt about his skateboarding career, despite his string of achievements. He said: "Many people disagreed with my father's unending support in allowing us to pursue skateboarding seriously." 

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Feroze's father (left) helped him with his travel expenses and buying new gear.
PHOTO CREDIT: FEROZE RAHMAN 

But these comments no longer faze the accomplished athlete. 

"I just laugh it off whenever anyone makes stereotypical comments about skateboarding. I won't even try to prove them wrong because I recognise my worth and what I have achieved. 

"As long as my parents are proud of me, what others say don't matter," said Feroze confidently. 

Thankfully, people's perceptions towards skateboarding are changing. For the first time in the Olympics, skateboarding will be making its debut in the Tokyo 2020 Games. 

"The Olympics are the ultimate benchmark when it comes to recognising official sports. With billions of pairs of eyes watching, this generates publicity for the sport, potentially changing negative views," added the young man. 

With over a year to go to Tokyo 2020, Feroze hopes that the sports associations in Singapore will be able to send a team to represent the country. 

Feroze added, with hopeful eyes: "I would love to guide younger Singaporean skateboarders who are passionate about the sport towards these international competitions. 

"For now, I will continue pursuing my passion and focus on improving myself as an athlete." 

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/AINUL MARDIYAH

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