Y-Talk: Pursuing pencak silat as a career was natural, says Singapore world champion Nurul Suhaila

In the first episode of Y-Talk, Nurul Suhaila shared the highs and lows of being a national pencak silat athlete.

Phoon Jia Hui

Jack of all trades, master of drinking boba milk tea.

Published: 10 December 2020, 4:41 PM

Being exposed to silat by her family from a young age, it was no surprise national pencak silat athlete Nurul Suhaila went on to pursue the combat sport as a career. 

But Suhaila, the youngest of three siblings in her family, admitted she did not know much about what was going on initially.     

“I was too young to decide if that’s what I wanted to do then. Being the youngest in the family, I just followed (what I was told),” the 25-year-old told host Amanda Chaang in the first episode of Y-Talk, Youthopia’s signature video series where we meet outspoken and driven youths to discuss what they’re passionate about. 

“It’s been a long journey for me. Coming from a family who does the same sport as I do, there wasn’t much like a surprise. My sister and brother were from the national team as well, so I think my parents were pretty supportive in everything that I do.”

Thankfully for Suhaila, she’s achieved tremendous success. 

After she picked up the sport at six years old, Suhaila was scouted by national selectors at 10 and joined the Singapore Sports School when she turned 12. She would go on to make a name for herself, winning her first world championship at the 15th World Pencak Silat Championship in 2018. 

While there were highs, Suhaila has had to endure her fair share of disappointments too. 

“I guess losses felt like failures for me,” she said. 

“Before I won my world title, I actually lost to the same opponent thrice. The fourth time I told myself ‘If you don’t win her, quit silat’. I was a bit hard on myself, but I guess that’s the kind of drive I need every time. 

“I’m someone who likes to see progress in myself so it doesn’t matter if I fail because I know I’ll get back up and try again.” 

As an athlete representing the nation, sacrifices had to be made as well. Suhaila said that because she’s always travelling for competitions, she’s missed out on birthday celebrations and social gatherings with her friends and family. 

“For me, it’s so important to have a support system who understands that you’re doing this for the future and not just because you enjoy it because you want something better for yourself,” she added.

With the Sports Resilience Package (SRP) being rolled out to help local sports tide through tough times, Suhaila hopes this can translate into support for Singaporean athletes.

“With the SRP, many sports businesses in Singapore don’t have to close down,” she said.

“This means that the development in training programmes don’t have to stop. It (in turn) gives athletes more hope that we can still continue pursuing sports and reach greater heights.”

Looking forward, Suhaila wished for athletes to continue to receive the support and recognition.  

“On my journey, I’ve seen the support grow and I hope we can continue that,” she said. 

“Hopefully this will give other athletes who may be amateurs the training that professionals receive, such as state-of-the-art facilities, as not everyone is as privileged to train in Sport Singapore with the facilities. With that, we can hopefully grow and create more champions.” 

“For now, other than silat, I just hope to inspire people through my sporting journey and hopefully build a platform enough to voice out opinions.”

You may like these