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Artistic gymnast Jovi Loh wins historic bronze at Junior Asian C’ships

When Jovi Loh was five, he would spend his time climbing at the playground near his home in Bukit Batok. So much so that his grandfather decided to sign him up for recreational gymnastics classes.

Three years later in 2016, South Korean Park Gi-yong, who was coaching at BazGym, a Singapore gymnastics club, decided to take Jovi under his wing.

On May 19, the 16-year-old gymnast scaled new heights by winning an unprecedented bronze medal in parallel bars at the Junior Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

He garnered 13.366 points to finish behind Chinese duo Yang Lanbin (13.933) and Zheng Ao (13.633) to clinch Singapore’s first men’s artistic gymnastics medal at the Asian juniors.

Named after Bon Jovi by his mother, a fan of the American rock band, Jovi now wants to blaze a trail of glory in gymnastics.

He told The Straits Times: “I’m definitely very happy and proud of winning the bronze, and more importantly, I know where I place against gymnasts from top countries like Japan and China. This feeling will motivate me to improve further. 

“What was more special to me is this milestone that I’ve reached. It’ll keep me going as I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of getting a podium finish.”

The youngster is now looking to contend for titles at major meets, including the all-around, where he finished 12th in the final in Tashkent.

His next major competition is the biennial World Junior Championships in 2025, when he will be aiming for gold in the parallel bars.

“In the long term, the ultimate goal is to get a gold medal in the Olympics and world championships, against the best of the best.”

His coach Park, who is now one of Singapore’s national coaches, was “incredibly proud and overjoyed” at Jovi’s feat.

“He has endured numerous injuries while preparing for this competition, yet he persisted and followed the demanding training plan. I’m grateful to him for his dedication.” 

He recalled that he was impressed by Jovi’s flexibility and physique when he first noticed him in a recreational class. 

“When I first saw him, he could only do basic forward and backward rolls,” he said.

“Although he is still a work in progress, he now possesses the capability to compete at the world level.”

Jovi joined the national training centre in 2018, and has been seeing steady progress.

While training is tough, he said: “Quitting the sport has never been an option for me.”

The Singapore Sports School student took part in his first international competition at the World Junior Championships in March 2023 when he was finished 14th in the parallel bars’ qualification round.

He was fifth in the same event at the 2023 Asian juniors three months later. In Tashkent, he was fifth during qualification but the setback only spurred him to tidy his routine in the final.

Said Jovi: “I told myself this competition will be the one which I will win a medal in parallel bars, and I kept that goal in mind every day. Now that I’ve achieved my goal, it’s one to remember forever.”

Park believes Jovi will only get better, adding: “His improvement has been remarkable, and I am confident he can achieve great things.”