Youngest sailor Daniel unfazed by major stage
Spotting Muhammad Daniel Kei at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games flag ceremony last month was no easy task.
Standing at a mere 1.44 metres and weighing just 36kg, he was easily dwarfed by the other 700-odd Team Singapore athletes.
But he will have no problems standing out from the rest once the sailing events commence.
At 11, he is Singapore's youngest athlete in this Games.
While most Primary 6 pupils would be busy preparing for their Primary School Leaving Examinations, the only thing on Daniel's mind now is making his SEA Games debut.
The little sailor might be shy and unaccustomed to all the attention, but his eyes twinkled with excitement whenever the words "SEA Games" are mentioned.
He told The New Paper: "I feel proud that I can represent Singapore, because I know not many people my age get the chance to."
Daniel, who is ranked among the top five in Singapore Sailing Federation's Optimist Gold ranking, will take part in the team racing optimist (Under-16 mixed) event.
Daniel's father first introduced him to the sport when he was just five.
"I've been sailing for six years. My dad took me along when I was young because he is also a sailor and he took part in some races," he said.
His passion for sailing also means he has to make plenty of sacrifices.
Juggling between sailing and studies is a tough act.
The Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) pupil trains five or six times a week. On school days, he heads straight for training after school. And by the time he reaches home, he has to hit the books until bedtime.
Despite his Games inexperience, the young sailor remains confident.
After all, the Republic was the top sailing nation at the previous SEA Games two years ago, when they delivered a haul of five golds, two silvers and five bronzes.
He said: "I feel quite confident for my race, we have a very good team and know one another very well so it's very good for us."
"I'm aiming to win a medal in my event. We have been training together for very quite long now, we know our strengths and weaknesses and can help one another improve.
"There are a lot of very good sailors in the team that I can learn from too."
Daniel can also draw inspiration from young Singaporean athletes of the past.
At the 2005 edition in Laguna, Philippines, a 13-year-old Quah Ting Wen won two silvers and two bronzes in her swimming debut Games. Quah is the Republic's flag-bearer for this year's Games.
Eileen Chai was the youngest athlete of Singapore's SEA Games contingent twice, as a gymnast, aged 7, in 1985 and as a hurdler, aged 14, in 1993. She went on to set a national record in the 100m hurdles.