Ice in her veins

Actions
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/5c16aa2a-f1f4-45c8-8b38-35bf3dab6992/may19-people1-thumbnail.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-5c16aa2a-f1f4-45c8-8b38-35bf3dab6992-mFJueRl /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/5c16aa2a-f1f4-45c8-8b38-35bf3dab6992/may19-people1-thumbnail.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-5c16aa2a-f1f4-45c8-8b38-35bf3dab6992-mFJueRl /web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2019-Q2/may19_people1
/web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2019-Q2/may19_people1
may19_people1
30 Apr 2019 | PEOPLE

Ice in her veins

// Story Chia Chong Jin

// Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of CPT LEONG

English Melayu
1-UP-B-caption

She may have started a little later than most in her skating hobby and naval career, but that didn’t stop Captain (CPT) Cheryl Leong from chasing her dreams.

Six years ago, 21-year-old Cheryl Leong went ice skating for the first time with her university friends. Since then, she has taken part in various international recreational skating competitions, and is now a familiar figure at the skating rinks in JCube and Kallang Leisure Park.

“I saw some of the figure skaters who were performing all sorts of elegant spins and poses, and I wanted to do the same too,” recalled CPT Leong.

“I decided to sign up for lessons and have continued figure skating ever since.”

Standing tall: CPT Leong in front of RSS Tenacious during Exercise RIMPAC 2018.

Lasting passion

CPT Leong’s parents were initially skeptical of her figure skating hobby, as she had had other interests that faded quickly. “They told me that I have a short attention span and that I was too old to pursue a hobby like figure skating,” she said with a laugh.

“But after some time, my parents started to understand my passion for ice-skating and they supported it.”

When asked what drew her to the sport, she said: “It allows me to put my worries aside and just enjoy the ice.”

From civilian to officer

Formerly working in marketing communications and events, CPT Leong left a desk-bound job in the private sector and joined the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) in 2016.

“The Navy provides a very dynamic career; it is a very people-oriented job as we spend most of our time on board ship, and I like the ‘Navy family’ culture.”

She admitted, however, that the transition was not easy. To the National University of Singapore alumna who graduated with a Business Administration degree in 2015, it was as if she was taking a whole new degree.

“There are a lot of specialised terms that we use in the Navy, and we have to learn the ‘traffic rules’ for the sea, which is something that not many people know about.”

Previously an Assistant Navigation Officer on board RSS Tenacious, CPT Leong had to take charge of the bridge team and ensure safe navigation of the frigate when the crew is out at sea.

“Any moment we are out at sea, we can’t afford to lose focus… (Otherwise), incidents can happen, especially in the crowded seas around Singapore. In a sense, I am responsible for the crew’s safety.”

Added the 27-year-old: “I wasn’t the most vocal person, so I really had to step out of my comfort zone (and step up as a leader) to take responsibility of my crew members.”

Currently in the Naval Advanced Officers’ Course, she will be graduating in mid-May. “The course prepares us junior officers for our appointments as Assistant Operations Officers on board our respective ships.”

“The Navy provides a very dynamic career; it is a very people-oriented job as we spend most of our time on board ship, and I like the ‘Navy family’ culture.”

CPT Leong on why she decided on a career with the RSN
CPT Leong (centre) came in second place in the Adult Bronze category for 2017 Singapore National Figure Skating Championships.

Learning opportunities

Being part of the Navy and the figure skating community has taught CPT Leong that perseverance is the key to success.

One challenge that she faced last year was at Exercise RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), where CPT Leong and her team members had to plan a journey from Singapore to Hawaii, across the Pacific Ocean.

“The planning alone took a lot of effort — it took us almost half a year to plan for the three-month exercise.”

Likewise for figure skating, perseverance is very much needed to succeed, explained CPT Leong. “If I don’t perform well and meet my own expectations (during competitions), I will have to continue to work harder and strive for greater results.”

She placed second in the Adult Bronze category at the Singapore National Figure Skating Championships in 2017, and has also participated in international competitions such as Skate Japan 2017, Skate Malaysia 2017 and Skate Bangkok 2018.

Travelling overseas to compete has broadened her view on not only figure skating, but also work-life balance.

“During international competitions, I get to meet figure skaters from different walks of life… It is amazing to find out how they are able to cope with work and passion at the same time.

“They taught me that work-life balance is important, and having that balance will allow me to perform better at work, as well as motivate myself to give my best in anything I do.”

Suggested Reading
3 things you need to know about the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise 2019
Cover story
3 things you need to know about the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise 2019
OPS & TRAINING
04-Sep-19

A walk around Singapore town
A walk around Singapore town
PEOPLE
01-Aug-19

He used to navigate the high seas, now this former naval officer navigates the streets of Singapore — with a group of tourists on his tail.

SAF Scholarship awarded to poly, SOTA students for the first time
SAF Scholarship awarded to poly, SOTA students for the first time
MILESTONES
19-Jul-19

For the first time, the prestigious SAF Scholarship – second only to the President’s Scholarship – has been awarded to a polytechnic graduate and a student from the School of the Arts (SOTA).

Kicking up a row
Kicking up a row
PEOPLE
01-Jul-19

He used to sail the high seas. Now, he rows on dry land. Meet former naval officer CPT (NS) David Han, who opened Singapore’s first dedicated indoor rowing studio.

NDP Mobile Column celebrates Singapore's strength
NDP Mobile Column celebrates Singapore's strength
COMMUNITY
29-Jun-19

Fifty years ago, Brigadier-General (BG) (Ret) Colin Theseira was one of the 36 officers who participated in the inaugural Mobile Column.

RSS Independence wins through professionalism
RSS Independence wins through professionalism
MILESTONES
25-Jun-19

The past year has been a busy yet exceptional one for the crew of Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) RSS Independence.

A united maritime front
Cover story
A united maritime front
OPS & TRAINING
25-Jun-19

How can countries cooperate to keep our waterways safe and open? Navies from 18 ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus nations spent two weeks working together to test their responses in a maritime security crisis.

All in the family for new SAF officers
All in the family for new SAF officers
MILESTONES
15-Jun-19

"If your bank account is full but your heart is not, then what’s the point?"

Strengthening naval ties at IMDEX Asia
Strengthening naval ties at IMDEX Asia
DIPLOMACY
15-May-19

"We are facing many kinds of tension in the world today, and the best way to achieve stability and to overcome some of the potential risks…is to do our best to strengthen multilateral platforms and multilateral understanding."

Collective effort needed to ensure safe seas: Dr Ng
Collective effort needed to ensure safe seas: Dr Ng
MILESTONES
14-May-19

With 25 per cent of all traded goods in the world on more than 1,000 ships passing through the Singapore Strait each day, calm seas in the region are needed to ensure global commerce continues, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.