For discus thrower Eric Yee, finding himself on the start list of this year’s SEA Games was the culmination of an accidental journey.
Back in Hwa Chong Institution, a 13-year-old Yee tried out for judo, volleyball, and track & field during the CCA trials. After being selected for the sprints team, Yee broke his ankle during the volleyball trials.
“The sprints team then told me I wouldn’t be able to run. But then throws took me in, so I did throws,” said Yee with a chuckle.
After consistently performing well on the youth circuit the past few years (including a silver medal at the 2015 Asian Youth Athletics Championships), the 20-year-old thrower will make his Games debut in the Philippines. He hopes to score his first SEA Games medal there.
“If I don’t underperform, it should be easy for me. I always throw further in training,” said Yee, who admitted that he suffers from competition nerves. At the 2015 Asian Youth Athletics Championships, he got anxious thinking about his competitors.
“I was in the call room where I saw that everyone else was a head taller than me. Then I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here?’”
Nonetheless, he got a silver medal. “I guess it’s okay since the bigger the competition the less I underperform,” Yee added, laughing.
Yee attributes his medal chances to the improvements he has made under his new coach, Stuart Carlaw. Carlaw, 44, coaches the United Kingdom’s under-20 shot put team as well.
“He’s a lot more structured with his training programme,” said Yee, who praised Carlaw’s in-depth technical and sport science knowledge. Training blocks are now planned around major meets and each session is clearly structured, Yee added.
However, one of the challenges he faces is that Carlaw is based in the UK. Most of the time, Yee texts Carlaw training update and relies on Singapore throws coach Akid Chong to help spot for him during training sessions.
“I’ve only seen (Carlaw) for maybe 22 days in the past one and a half years?” said Yee.
Fresh off a two-week training stint in the UK with Carlaw, Yee said that he feels ready for the Games, despite some minor injuries. “I feel about an eight out of 10,” said Yee.
Post-SEA Games, Yee has his eyes set on the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“Maybe even qualify for the Olympics in 2024?” he added.
When asked about his plans after the Olympics, Yee said it was too early for him to decide if he will retire after that. Currently, his goal retirement age is 32, but even that’s not set in stone.
“Most throwers peak around 28. If I don’t compete till that age, I’ll never know how far I can go,” said Yee.