Ice in her veins

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30 Apr 2019 | PEOPLE

Ice in her veins

// Story Chia Chong Jin

// Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of CPT LEONG

English 华文

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 (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.”

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