Photo credit: NICHELLE TAN


Nichelle Tan is a 19-year-old member of the Singapore Taekwondo National Team. Since 2015, she has represented Singapore in various international competitions and won multiple medals. She also coaches students of all ages at Johan Taekwondo (Thomson).

Tell us more about what you do!

I am pretty much focusing on taekwondo these days. When I’m not on school holidays, I would train six times a week for one and a half to two hours each time. Now that I am having my school internship, I train twice a day. My typical day consists of training from 10 am to 12 pm, getting lunch afterwards, then working from 3 pm to 7pm, and having evening training from 730pm to 9 pm before finally heading home.

In my free time or on my rest days, I enjoy watching Grey’s Anatomy, going out to eat and hanging out with my friends.

What inspires or motivates you to do what you do?

My journey began when I was four years old and wanted to join my siblings for taekwondo lessons at a local residents’ corner located just beneath my block. At the age of seven, I participated in my first competition. I don’t recall much about it, but all I knew was that I lost that competition and sat in the court crying until my mom had to come and carry me out.

Since then, I trained even harder to make sure I could beat the girl I had lost to if I were to compete against her again. As it turned out, I met her in the next competition and won. Over time, my passion for taekwondo grew more and more as I kept winning and improving.

I am very lucky to have such supportive parents who know what it is like to be an athlete as they were once athletes themselves. My dad was on the Dragon Boat National Team, while my mom did Dragon Boat and Judo. My dad was a member of the 1993 Sea Games squad which was held in Singapore. They beat Indonesia, who was the World Champion that year. When I hear stories like these, it makes me feel more motivated whenever I feel like giving up.

Have you faced any challenges so far? How did you overcome them?

Yes, I’ve encountered so many challenges such as dieting, injuries, and my school not being supportive of me for wanting to participate in overseas competitions. Being injured was one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome. Just recently, I had an avulsion fracture in my ankle from sparring during training. I didn’t think it would be that serious, but I ended up being sent to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) as I discovered I couldn’t even put any weight on my ankle.

I was disappointed and sad as I knew I would be out of training for at least two months. When I saw my teammates training hard while I had to do recovery at the side, it made me tear a little every time. I wished I had been more careful.

In just two months, I was able to return to training. I am very grateful for the support of my physiotherapist as well as my strength and conditioning coach who carefully planned my rehabilitation so that my muscles would not atrophy as much, which helped me get back in the game faster. My teammates and coaches also played a huge role in encouraging me whenever I felt down.

If you could share one piece of advice with your fellow youth, what would it be?

One quote that I believe in is to “trust the process”. Trust that everything happens for a reason and that if you’re going through a tough time, it will get better over time.

What are your hopes or plans for the future? What do you want to see or perhaps do?

I plan to take time off from my studies and train full-time next year. In Singapore, studies may be our number one priority, but an athlete’s “life” is short too. I hope to achieve good results and do our nation proud by flying our Singapore flag high at major games. The Singapore Taekwondo Federation has been supportive in our training, and I hope that with their continuous support, I can achieve these goals. My dream is to win a Sea Games medal just like my dad. Next, it’s to qualify for higher-level international competitions such as the Asian Games and win international medals.

This article was published on Jan 19, 2022

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