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Amanda Choo, “The change of coach was demoralizing, I contemplated giving-up … but I persevere on”
  • April 17th, 2010

Women’s 100m national record holder Amanda Choo lowered her own mark in a recent overseas meet at Negeri Sembilan Open recently.

The 22-year-old ran into the records books with a time of 12.03s in her heats, and eventually later on clocking 12.17s and 12.38s in her semi-finals and finals respectively, capturing the silver medal at the event.

The previous mark was 12.12 seconds, which was achieved during Amanda’s SEA Games 2007 outing at Korat, Thailand.

Posting promising times locally, the young teacher to-be achieved an early season timing of 12.20s in the recent 2nd Allcomers, and a similar timing of 12.20s at the Swift Open before venturing across the Causeway for Negeri Sembilan Open, and Amanda reflected that her 12.03 seconds sublime run as “unexpected” but welcomed.

The former CHIJ Sec. Toa Payoh now NTU/NIE final year undergrad, hopes to qualify for the 16th Asian Games, to be held in Guangzhou, China.

She has to beat the qualifying mark of 11.85 seconds. That virtually mean she would have to lower her national mark again, and dipping the 12 seconds barrier.

I do believe now the question is not whether IF Amanda will finally run the elusive sub-12 seconds for the 100m, but it’s a matter of WHEN.

On her Negeri Sembilan Open outing

Your 12.03s record breaking run, do share with us the race experience.

I clocked the timing during the heats which was scheduled to take place at 830am.

The day before, I had already consulted my coach about how to run the race, and as our aim for this competition was to go for timing, we decided that I should run all out for all the races.

Being so early in the morning, I tend to need a longer warm up and was at the stadium by 630am, accompanied by my coach Mr Loh Chan Pew.

I started with a light jog at around 640am, stretched, proceeded for drills together with light striding and ended off with fast sprints of up to 60m.

My coach was on hand to time my sprints and advise me.

During my warm up jog, I took the opportunity to survey the track conditions as well and found that there were pot holes along the lines of the track and the rubber at the start line was peeling and in some instance, completely gone. At that time I was slightly concerned about the grip of the blocks.

As I walked to the reporting area, it started to drizzle and by the time I reported at 8am, it was pouring.

The rain lasted till about 9am and the race started around 910am. During the delay, I was a little concerned about injury as it was very cold and there was hardly any space to run.

Hence I relied on on-the-spot high knees and quick movements to keep myself warmed up.

A composed figure as Amanda dons her Mizuno spikes, and resumes her dynamic warmup

When it was my turn to run, I recall having to change one side of my blocks which was unstable and that added to my concern that the block would slip.

As we were in ‘set’ position, the gun malfunctioned and that unnerved me as I was also very aware of the new false start rule.

When the race finally started, I recalled my start being quite slow although I was leading.

Amanda setting up her blocks for the 100m women’s finals in Negeri Sembilan (Lane 3).

Half way through the race, the Malaysian runner (eventual winner during the finals) was next to me and I tried to keep pace. I remember relaxing slightly at the 50m mark and then accelerating again towards the finishing line, winning my heat.

After the race, I felt only okay about it as I had relaxed a bit too much in the middle.

About half an hour later, as I was preparing for my semis, my coach ran towards me as I was coming out of the changing room and broke the news that I had ran 12.03s. Quite frankly, we were both shocked.

Amanda side-by-side with the eventual winner Malaysia’s Siti Zubaidah.

What do you think was the factor behind your record breaking run? A weak area in your sprinting repertoire that Mr. Loh worked on perhaps?

A particular area we focused on was speed endurance which helped me to drag my acceleration phase longer and sustain my speed before decelerating.

I also worked on my strength as due to my height, I had to compensate in strength to improve my stride length.

Although we did expect a good timing prior to the competition as I had been clocking good times during training, when I saw the weather and delay, I was just praying to finish the race safely without injury.

In that sense, it was unexpected.

Why Negri Sembilan Open race?

After I clocked decent timings during the Allcomers and Swift meet, I requested to be sent for overseas competitions for better exposure and atmosphere.

Amanda winning the Swift Open finals recently.

After much exchange and forwarding of emails, I was then asked to submit a detailed training plan for the year.

SAA then sent out a list of competitions up till June, that we could take part in.

After replying, I was then asked to set competition targets for EACH meet.

After that, I received no response until the week of the competition when I sent them another email on Monday, and was then notified of a briefing session on Wednesday.

On her training progress, and life-long coach, Mr Loh Chan Pew

How’s your condition currently. Any injuries plaguing you?

I have been having a left hamstring problem since December but thankfully by the grace of God, during competitions, it does not act up.

Being flat footed also requires me to wear insoles for all my training shoes. However, I do not wear it during my race because of the additional weight and as a result; my arches tend to hurt after.

Aside from competitive races, what else do you need currently to aid in your quest for the elusive sub-12s timing.

Definitely better training and athlete support. It really is not easy to train at such high level while working, especially when I need to slot in physio, recovery and training sessions.

Mr. Loh is coaching you for free currently?

Yes, he has been coaching me for free since 2004 after I graduated from the secondary school he was coaching

Amanda with her coach Mr. Loh Chan Pew. (Image via Nanyang Chronicle)

On the local athletics scene and her struggles

Do you think there’s enough races locally for you to lower the 100m national mark again? Do you need more overseas races?

There are definitely not enough races for the seniors locally.

For instance, during the 3rd Allcomers, there were races for all age groups except the seniors. I could not see the rationale for that as if it was timing based, like the 2nd allcomers, there should not be a problem.

Furthermore, if we are preparing our youth for YOG, it would also be good for those running <13s to compete with the seniors. Overseas competitions also help us to focus and prepare better as we can get adequate rest and focus solely on our races whereas, for local meets, the day before and even the actual day itself, we would still be busy with our daily routines or duties. Quality of competitors wise, I feel that it should not matter as although I may be faster in overall timing, I can still benefit from the challenge at the start, or even just the pressure to perform at my best as I would be expected to win.

How’s the support level, sponsorship, training grants, etc? Is it sufficient, or are you paying it all on your own.

Currently, the only support I am receiving is a $600/year grant and free physio services from SSC. It is really insufficient as my supplements alone add up to more than $200 a month.

Attire wise, it used to be at my own expense but Mizuno has kindly decided to sponsor me from this year.

My main concern now would also be to fund my overseas competitions as although I have broken the record, my timing only qualifies for the C category of the Co sharing scheme for overseas competitions.

This means I have to pay a percentage for all overseas competitions until I qualify for Asian Games or any other major games.

Blast from the past: 2006, Amanda in Lane 3 at the Singapore Open. The race where she clocked 12.21s and broke the women 100m record for the first time

Past and future challenges

It’s been two years plus since your last interview here. What has transpired since 2007. How would your rate your 2008 and 2009 season.

2008 and 2009 were very tough years for me as my form dipped terribly and it was difficult to deal with losing at local races.

However on hindsight, these loses made me train harder to push myself to a higher level as I felt that I had to show consistency to be worthy of the national record.

The change of coach was also a very tiring and demoralizing time as I watched my relay team runners gradually give up.

We faced flak for choosing to sit out of the national relay squad and our commitment to the nation was questioned.

I was very upset to see my own effort in fighting for a slot in 2007 SEA Games and subsequent achievements being belittled and ignored.

It did not help that our record breaking feats were labeled as breaking records by only the “minutest of seconds”, as said by Loh Lin Kok (SAA President), although in actual fact, most sprint records are broken by that minimal of margins.

During that time I did contemplate giving up because it was difficult to pick myself up again and find the motivation to train.

Thankfully, with my coach’s encouragement each time I had a disappointing race, and a lot of prayers, I managed to persevere on. Mr Loh inspired me to keep on fighting against any resistance or hostility just as he did despite being dropped from his position just because of paper qualifications.

Blast from the past: 2007, Amanda in Lane 1 at the SEA Games in Korat. Earlier in the heats she clocked 12.12s breaking the national record for the second time, in this video Amanda is in the finals, clocking 12.20s finishing 6th.

I believe you’re graduating soon. Entering the work-force is next. How you think that will affect your training and competitions ahead?

I have been on practicum (teaching practice) since end of February and it did initially affect my training in terms of time constraints, after school duties and overall just being more tired than usual.

I was unable to do double trainings and my physio treatments have been affected as the time slots are often during working hours or training times.

Going into full time teaching after I graduate, I foresee a lot more time adjustments as I will have CCA duties as well.

However, my coach and I have spoken about it and he is willing to train me late into the evening, and even on Sundays. Competition wise, I have spoken to the school I may potentially be transferred to and they are aware of the competitions I may go for.

Having been able to clock decent timings at competitions (3rd Allcomers, Swift Open, Negri Sembilan) even during my practicum has also given me the confidence that I can always adjust and manage my time to suit my trainings.

Credit: Amanda Choo for the insightful interview, Abdul Rahman Lim for the photos and Shalindran for the video.

Please contact me using the below form if there’s any individual or corporate entity who wishes sponsor and be part of Amanda Choo’s sporting journey.

[contact-form 1 “Contact form 1”]


Posted by Uncle Sha.
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