Written by Kelvin Leong
One swift stare down the gauntlet and she unleashes the discus into the sky to much aplomb. Having bagged numerous awards throughout her fledgling discus career, one would think that Singapore female discus thrower Hannah Lee knew of her talent from a young age.
That theory went out of the window the moment we started the interview.
She was quick to point out that like any other kid, she tried out a variety of CCAs like Girls’ Brigade, chess, choir and swimming but did not excel at any of them before a simple day in class changed her life completely.
“The track & field teacher walked into my primary five class and asked everyone to stand up… she singled out a few of us and told us to go for the school team tryout. The first thought in my mind was what was she thinking! She thinks I can run?” chirped the spritely 23-year-old.
“At the tryout, the coach made me do everything and finally, he made me throw tennis balls around the court. A few years later while I was at Fairfield Methodist Secondary School, I was competing at the Singapore Junior Championships and I won a silver medal in my category for shot putt and subsequently a bronze at the nationals so I have to thank those tennis balls!”
Despite being grateful to her Christian faith for “god’s gift to be a sportswoman”, the hardworking thrower – who started out with shot putt before switching to discus – refused to rest on her laurels and increased her grueling regime over the past few months to ensure she is in optimum condition to do Singapore proud in what she terms as “the competition she has been training for all her life”.
She remarked: “Once I knew I qualified, I upped my training and did 10 to 11 sessions weekly, ranging from 1.5 to two hours per session. I do feel a lot of pressure with the tournament being held in Singapore but it is not just about winning or losing.”
“I am more afraid to falter and disappoint the many family and friends who will be in the stands supporting me. They are my motivation and also my pressure. All I can think of now is to go out there and push myself to the limit and walk away with no regrets knowing I did my best.”
Having to juggle her school commitments – Hannah is taking a degree in physiotheraphy at the Singapore Institute of Technology – along with her bid for SEA Games glory, Hannah keeps her spirits up through a hidden talent of hers, singing.
Being a thrower is my passion but so is singing! My fellow church mates and I lead the worship service as the main singers and it is through singing where I feel I get to express myself. Being able to sing and share the joy with my fellow churchgoers is something that I really enjoy.
“Music also plays an crucial role on competition days. Before I step out at the stadium, I normally listen to Planetshakers’ ‘Nothing is impossible’ and ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry to psyche myself up. It gets me pumped up for the throws and eases some of the nerves that gets to me when the going gets tough.”
Modelling her athletics career after ex-thrower Wan Lay Chi, Hannah is confident that despite Thailand’s Subenrat Insaeng’s dominance as the region’s top athlete in the women’s discus event, she stands a chance for a medal position and is ready to lock horns with Malaysian counterpart Karen Yap who is another hot favourite to finish among the top three.
She declared: “I consider my medal chances high. I’m aiming for silver on home soil and have managed to reach the distance to be the silver medal qualifier for this year’s SEA Games. The region’s discus standard is picking up but so is my performance. So I’m game for a good fight for that silver medal with Yap whom I have been chasing for a long time. It’s anyone’s game at the moment so let’s get started!”
With that, the spirited 23-year-old gave the same air of poise that makes her stand out from the crowd and said “see you at the Sports Hub in June. Come watch my battle!”
Hannah Lee is ready to rumble and better her current personal best of 45.91m. The question is, are you ready to step into the cauldron come June and join her war cry?