Dolly Lo, the mother-mentor to Singapore athletes, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Dolly Lo, the mother-mentor to Singapore athletes

Dolly Lo is a mother of three and has three grandchildren, though the 56-year-old can count many more “children” in her sporting family.

Always fashionably dressed and sporting colourful spectacles, she is a regular fixture at the Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI) Athletes’ Centre, where the mother figure befriends athetes and chats with them.

While Lo never did sports at the elite level, she has developed a strong empathy for athletes from being a mother to three national sailors Lo Man Yi, Jun Hao and Ryan.

The SSI’s athlete life mentor said: “This was a good way for me to give back after my children received a lot of support from the nation in their pursuit of sports.

“Every athlete gives 100 per cent, but they can be so consumed with winning a medal that they forget to enjoy the journey and the sport. They may also feel alone and that no one understands, so I want to help them by being a listening ear and source of encouragement.”

Her journey as a mentor began in 2014 when she was invited by the SSI to be a parent volunteer for two hours a week. During the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, she found herself volunteering every day and wanted more.

From 2017 to 2019, she had a similar role for student athletes at the Singapore Sports School as a boarding executive, and now serves 24 hours a week in her current capacity at the SSI. 

The actual commitment is a lot more, as “relationships can be built only over time”. 

With a hearty laugh, she shared how she connects with athletes in her own “auntie way”, keeping a black notebook to jot down their names, sport and the first time they spoke.

She also goes the extra mile by engaging them in long phone chats, meals, and baking healthy banana cakes. She cheers them on at local events, tracks their performances when they are competing overseas and during major Games, she is at the airport send-offs.

Dolly said: “I’m there not only for the superstars who have made it, because often it is the underdogs from sports with less resources who need someone in their corner.

“When they feel deflated, I would tell them to be kind to themselves. When you have done your best, you have lost well, but one day you can make it too.”

One such underdog was dragonboater Tan Ji Xuan, who left the sport in 2018 to focus on school and part-time work. She was encouraged by Lo to make a comeback in 2021 and two years later was part of the team who competed in the Asian Games.

The 27-year-old said: “Auntie Dolly knew I had more in me to contribute to the sport. She is very close to many of us and it’s amazing how she knows everyone so well and has that ability to make people feel comfortable about confiding in her.

“As she has built the relationship with us for many years... she understands the dynamics of the team and is able to act as a mediator to help us see alternative perspectives.”

Dolly finds inspiration from watching the young ones mature and while her SSI contract runs out in June, her dedication remains.

She said: “Sometimes, they get bloodied and badly injured... I can get so worried and cry at home for them, because I have already treated them as my friends and kids. This is not a job because I find so much meaning in it and I will stop only when I’m no longer effective.”