What an exciting journey it has been for Terena Lam.

Terena, better known as Terna amongst friends and fellow sailors, is one of the many athletes who have done Singapore proud at the 28th SEA Games – winning double gold medals for the women’s keelboat fleet racing and match racing events. What makes her story even more remarkable is that unlike many of her SEA Games competitors who had started sailing at a young age, she only picked up the sport four years ago in her freshman year at SMU.

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Hi, I’m Terna. I’m in my last year of school in Accountancy, with a second major in Information Systems, but I spend most of my time sailing!

Coming to SMU, I knew I wanted to join a water sport. I was in canoeing back in JC, and that got me hooked on water sports. As I trained and canoed more, I got better at it. And when I got better, it felt good. So I thought, there has to be some affinity between water and me.

There’s something calming about water. When you’re out at sea, on the water, anything can happen. You have this intensity in sailing, yet it calms your nerves.


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Joining the club with no sailing experience, I had to learn the ropes very quickly. It’s about gaining experience, and you can only do that through practice. The seniors really imparted a lot of knowledge. For me, it was about making the conscientious effort to correct yourself, and not just take their words as passing comments. Learn from your mistakes, and put it into practice the next time you go out to sea. Four years on, I’m still learning.

What are the top three qualities for any sailor? Patience, calmness, and the ability to think on your feet.

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“I believe you need to be friends first, teammates second.”

You’ve got to understand each other, communicate well, and always be together as one team. Especially in a match race, where there are only two boats, and you’re duelling one-on-one with the other team. You have to work super well together, in order to gain that edge and win the race.

The best advice I’ve ever received is: Stay calm. If there’s a problem, just solve it. It won’t solve itself or change because you’re panicking. So just stay calm, and solve the problem.

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I remember one scary moment during last year’s Singapore Straits Regatta. I was dropping the spinnaker, a large parachute-like sail, when I suddenly slipped and fell into the water. I was hanging on only to this one rope. Because I was hidden by the spinnaker, nobody on the boat knew that I was overboard. I didn’t scream for help, and was just concentrating on getting myself back onboard. But in the end, I just couldn’t hold on and let go of the rope.. everyone went “Terna is overboard!” They circled back to pick me up. Thankfully, we maintained our position for the race!

“Now, I’m very zen, very calm.”

I used to be a very gan-chiong person. Now, nothing fazes me. A lot of my friends say that they can really see the change in me. And this extends beyond sailing.

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When there are too many opinions and ideas at stake, we’ll end up with either a cosmic explosion or a blood bath. During my time as president of the sailing club, I learned that it takes a team that is strongly driven by what they’ve set to do, to be able to put their foot down and make the tough decisions. It’s never easy. It was a great learning journey and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the club.

I’ve travelled all around the world with SMU Sailing. I’ve definitely travelled more with the club than if I weren’t a sailor. I’ve sailed in Italy, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand… It’s a great club, with so many opportunities and experiences to learn from.

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The sailors are just a great bunch of friends to hang out with. On water, we mean business, but on hand, there’s nothing a few drinks can’t help. I remember once, when we had quite a few drinks, I found myself “swimming” across our training room at Raffles Marina! On the carpet, going around chairs, our equipment and bags, and all that. These are the fun memories that you’ll always remember. Fun times!

In the future, I want to be my own boss. Definitely in F&B. I would love to start a bar, a cafe. I don’t know what I’ll name it yet though!

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