Turning Passion into Career

Three sports journalists share the grit and grind it took to turn their passion for sports into their careers.

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From watching sports by the stands as fans to interviewing some of the biggest international athletes, three alumni from WKWSCI, May Chen (CS’10), Nicole Chia (CS’16) and David Lee (CS’09), share how their passion for sports became their career.

 

The Olympic Chaser

“It was something that nobody expected. As a Singaporean, to be there, to not just watch it but then document it, was just special. It will always be a very treasured memory,” said Chen (centre) on Joseph Schooling’s 2016 Rio Olympic win. PHOTO COURTESY OF MAY CHEN

Over the past decade, May Chen (CS’10) covered three Olympic Games and three Youth Olympic Games.

This year, she had been lined up to travel to Tokyo to cover the 2020 Olympics and for her first time, the Paralympics.

But in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Olympics will be postponed to the following year. Nevertheless, Chen hopes that the 2021 Olympics will be a representation of how the world has come together to fight the pandemic.

“It will be very different from what was originally envisioned, but I think it will also be very, very special and I have every intention of being there to be a part of that celebration (in Tokyo),” said Chen who now works for the South China Morning Post.

Chen’s journey began ten years ago when she was contacted by WKWSCI Assistant Professor Andrew Duffy to apply for the first batch of the Young Reporters Programme with the International Olympics Committee to cover the 2010 YOG in Singapore.

She had just graduated then and had applied for civil service jobs but decided to apply for the programme as well, a decision that kick-started her career in sports journalism.

She was one of 29 international young journalists who were accepted into the programme. At the YOG, they learned from veterans in broadcast, print and photography and had first-hand experience reporting events too.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to cover the Olympics and I didn’t want to squander that opportunity so I told myself I was going to spend the next two years from that time until the Olympics to learn and get better at sports reporting.”

May Chen (CS’10), senior production editor at South China Morning Post

Her outstanding performance during the programme awarded her with a chance to cover the 2012 London Olympics.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to cover the Olympics and I didn’t want to squander that opportunity so I told myself I was going to spend the next two years from that time until the Olympics to learn and get better at sports reporting so that I don’t go a complete greenhorn,” said Chen.

Hence, she applied to be a sports reporter for The Straits Times where she eventually worked for the next seven years. In that time, she covered many major sporting events, even leading the coverage for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It was also in Rio that Chen watched Joseph Schooling become Singapore’s first and only Olympic gold medallist, in the 100 metre butterfly. Despite having interviewed many big sports stars, Chen said that this was her most memorable event.

“It was something that nobody expected. As a Singaporean, to be there, to not just watch it but then document it, was just special. It will always be a very treasured memory.”

Today, Chen works for South China Morning Post as the Senior Production Editor in Hong Kong. She decided to move from ST to learn new skills in the digital territory as she feels that the news industry has shifted to a more digital medium.

But one thing that will not change is Chen’s eagerness to continue covering the Olympic Games in the future.

 

The Almost Footballer

Lee, conducting a video interview at the 2018 World Cup final, was soaked in rain and beer as fans celebrated France beating Croatia 4-2. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID LEE

Like Chen, The Straits Times sports correspondent David Lee (CS’09) was set to cover the Tokyo Olympics this year.

While disappointed at having to wait another year before realising his dream of being at the Olympics, Lee who counts covering the Games as one of his biggest goals, said that in such circumstances, sport comes second.

“What’s important is that everyone works together to eradicate or contain the virus so that life can go back to normal and the Olympics can then be held in a safe environment with everyone participating with a peace of mind,” said Lee.

Lee had not always wanted to be a sports journalist. Instead, he aspired to be a professional footballer and has had a keen interest in football ever since he watched the 1994 Fifa World Cup.

“I remember waking up early and being glued to the TV before I had to be dragged away to go to school,” he said.

Lee went on to play as a forward for his secondary school, junior college and university but his dreams of playing professionally were shattered when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament at 24.

Now a journalist for 11 years, Lee fondly recalls how he found his love for sports journalism in his third year at WKWSCI during his 6-month Professional Internship at The New Paper sports desk.

Recalling his stint, Lee shared how his internship got off to a rocky start when he was tasked to write a story on the English Premier League.

“My career could have ended before it started. I froze badly while writing one of my first stories as a TNP intern. My mind went blank and I just couldn't write anything that made sense,” he said.

While his sub-editor rewrote that story for him, Lee was determined to improve his writing. He learnt the importance of being focused and level headed and took the opportunity to get feedback from veteran writers on his work.

“I think I will stay a journalist, in particular a sports journalist, for life because this is what I'm passionate about. As a happy-go-lucky person, it is probably one of the few things I'm serious about other than family.”

David Lee (CS’09), sports correspondent at The Straits Times

Lee eventually got a stint as a part-timer for TNP in his graduating year, until he was hired full-time upon graduation in 2009.

In his time at TNP and ST, Lee has covered various major sporting events such as the 2010 and 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar and the 2014 and 2018 World Cups in Brazil and Russia respectively.

At the 2018 Russian World Cup, Lee was the only ST reporter there and had to provide print, radio, online and social media coverage for 35 days straight across six cities.

Despite being down with flu and nosebleeds for a week, constantly travelling and sometimes even working on two-hour long naps a day, Lee persisted with his reporting because he wanted to ensure that he provided full coverage of the games.

“I don't know where the tenacity comes from, maybe it's because I am doing something I really enjoy, and also I don't want to let my team down.”

“I think I will stay a journalist, in particular a sports journalist, for life because this is what I'm passionate about. As a happy-go-lucky person, it is probably one of the few things I'm serious about other than family,” said Lee.

 

The Tennis Fan

Chia (left) interviewing professional tennis player Kim Clijsters after a media tennis clinic during the 2017 WTA finals. PHOTO COURTESY OF NICOLE CHIA

Sports writing came easily to Nicole Chia (CS’16) as she had always read the sports section first in the newspapers before she went to school, looking to get news on her favourite sport, tennis.

Her love for tennis started in primary school when she played recreationally with her father. Chia went on to represent her secondary school and junior college in tennis games. She also played in the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Games for Nanyang Technological University.

During her time in WKWSCI, Chia was the sports editor for the student-run campus paper, The Nanyang Chronicle, where she guided student reporters and covered the IVP games.

Today, Chia is a sports reporter for The Straits Times, where she gets to attend international tennis events and interview the biggest tennis stars.

In October 2019, Chia got the opportunity to cover the Rolex Shanghai Masters and even interviewed Roger Federer in a post-match press conference.

Chia has also had one-on-one time with other well-known tennis players. At the Women's Tennis Finals in 2017, Chia even got to show off her tennis skills while playing with former world number one Kim Clijsters during a promotional media event.

“It was a media tennis clinic and none of us were at her playing standard but she was very nice and very encouraging,” said Chia.

“Nadal treats a World No. 1000 with the same respect as a World No.1. He doesn’t underestimate his opponents. That’s what I like about him as a competitor.”

Nicole Chia (CS’16), sports reporter at The Straits Times

Although it was just an event to hit a few rounds with Clijsters, Chia saw the golden opportunity to get a quick interview with Clijsters for a tennis news story she was working on.

One of Chia’s biggest goals is to get up close and personal with Rafael Nadal, her favourite tennis player.

She said that while Federer makes tennis look graceful and effortless, she prefers to watch the grit and effort Nadal puts into every single point he scores.

She also admires that Nadal plays with the same intensity every game, even with an opponent who isn’t as established as he is.

“Nadal treats a World No. 1000 with the same respect as a World No.1. He doesn’t underestimate his opponents. That’s what I like about him as a competitor,” said Chia.

Now three and a half years into sports journalism, Chia hopes to one day cover a Grand Slam, the most important annual tennis event, as well as the Olympic Games. 

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