Skydiving: Singapore's athletes overcome nerves to win four World Cup titles
In her biggest competition since the pandemic struck, Singapore indoor skydiver Kyra Poh barely showed any signs of rust as she clinched a gold medal in the freestyle open category of the April 5-10 FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving (WCIS).
Poh, 19, admitted that this year's competition in Charleroi, Belgium, was more stressful than previous editions as the prolonged break owing to the pandemic meant it was hard to gauge where she stood among her competitors.
But she was also determined not to let that affect her preparations for the competition.
As with previous competitions, Poh incorporated two or three new moves that no one had seen before and this time she also took a judging course to familiarise herself with the more technical aspects of indoor skydiving.
"It was definitely stressful not knowing where everyone was at and having to push ourselves," said Poh, who racked up 73.6 points, finishing above Poland's Maja Kuczynska (72.4) and Latvia's Toms Ivans (71.9) in the freestyle open category at Airspace Indoor Skydiving.
"It's not my first World Cup so I have a lot of expectations I put on myself and I was excited that everything worked out well."
This was her fourth medal at the WCIS. She had won the freestyle junior category in 2016, before clinching a silver in the freestyle open and a gold in the two-way dynamic open at the 2018 competition.
Winning the freestyle open this time, after narrowly losing to Ivans four years ago by just 0.2 points, made it all the sweeter for Poh.
She said: "I'm happy that this year I managed to constantly lead and triumph to get the world title."
The Republic's four other indoor skydivers at the competition, who were all making their World Cup debuts, also clinched titles in their respective events.
Kai Minejima Lee, 13, led the way with three titles in the freestyle junior, two-way dynamic junior (speed and free), and four-way dynamic junior (speed) categories.
In the freestyle junior, Kai topped the field of three, amassing 64.3 points to finish ahead of American Sydney Kennett (63.5) and Brazilian Gabriela Haga Chacorn (33.1).
He combined with Vera Poh, 12, to bag the gold in the two-way dynamic junior (speed and free). The duo were also part of the team that took home the title in the four-way dynamic junior (speed) with Isabelle Koh, 14, and Jordan Lee, 17.
Describing it as a "dream come true" to compete at the World Cup, Kai said they could "really feel the tension in the air".
"Everyone's training harder than before because they know that they're going to have a tough battle for the title," he added.
Vera was pleased by how she was able to perform on the world stage. She said: "It definitely was another level. The stress was there, but I'm happy I managed to triumph over it and have a lot of fun."
For Isabelle, there were also some nerves ahead of the competition as she worried about how an operation on her spine last November would affect her preparations.
"I did feel a bit nervous about the World Cup this time," she said.
"I went for a surgery late last year so my preparation time wasn't as long as previous competitions but I feel like we still managed to put in a lot of practice leading up to the competition."
Besides making his World Cup debut, it was also Jordan's first time competing in the dynamic event. The teenager, who used to compete in formation skydiving, described it as "very exciting".