By Julian Low | Images provided by Benedict Chan
For Benedict Chan (Class of 2021), the 29th edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur will always be extraordinary. Making his debut in squash for Team Singapore, Benedict won the bronze and gold medals in the Doubles and Men’s Team events respectively. The biennial sports event, held from 19 to 30 August 2017, involved over 4000 athletes competing in 404 events across 38 sports.
Team Singapore sent over 500 athletes to compete in the games. “I had initially set myself the target of winning the bronze for the Men’s Doubles and the silver for the Men’s Team event. However, after we had heard that Malaysia had lost to Philippines in the Men’s Team semi-final match, we knew that it was a great chance for us to win the gold as we had beaten Philippines earlier in the group stages,” Benedict said. On 29 August 2017, he and his teammates managed to overcome their Filipino rivals in a closely fought encounter to win a historic gold medal in squash for Singapore in 22 years.
‘It still feels surreal to have won the gold. So to say that I am happy would be an understatement. My teammates and I are extremely delighted with the victory!” he beamed.
A late bloomer in squash, Benedict picked up the sport in Secondary One and realised that he had a natural aptitude for the game. His father, who played the sport for leisure, developed training programmes for Benedict to hone his skills. Within a year, he joined the national squash team and this further fuelled his passion for the sport. “Besides the training and participating in overseas competitions, it was the bond and friendships that I forged with my teammates and other international players that made me want to become a better player,” he said.
Although Benedict was familiar with his opponents in the SEA games, he shared that it was down to a battle of nerves when he faced them. “The pressure of the SEA games is different from the other regional competitions that I have competed in previously. It was a very intense and heart-racing experience; perhaps the fact that it was my first time participating in the SEA games contributed to it!” he said.
As he prepares to return to Yale-NUS to continue his studies, Benedict is grateful that the College had helped in his preparation for the SEA games. “I could not be thankful enough that the College was extremely supportive and flexible in giving me time off from my classes to attend my training and to compete in the games.”
Benedict is also confident that Yale-NUS would be the best place for his continual development as an athlete and individual. “Even though it is early days at the College, I have learnt to practise good time management and to prioritise my needs. I feel that it has made me more responsible and matured.” He added, “I came to Yale-NUS with an open mind to explore and find which path best suits me. Most importantly, I am excited to acquire essential skills from the curriculum, such as critical thinking, that would be beneficial for my overall development. For example, if I feel that a certain part of my game needs to be improved, I can apply those skills to consolidate all these thoughts to have much better self-reflection. It is certainly something my younger self would not have been able to do so.”
On his future plans, Benedict said, “Currently, I hope to be able to find a balance between my training and studies. I have my sights set in competing in the Asian games and Commonwealth games next year, so I am going to continue to train hard, do well and hopefully get selected to represent Singapore!”