Trust is one of the core values that underscores Amanda Ng’s approach to sailing. As a national sailor and windsurfer who spends hours each day training out at sea, trust is about having confidence in your partner, respecting nature in all of its unpredictability and might, and listening to your gut instinct.

A veteran sailor who started sailing at the age of nine, Amanda will be representing Singapore at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, sailing with Jovina Choo in the Women’s 470 category. What an incredible feat to be competing at the world’s greatest sporting stage at the young age of 22!

We chat with Amanda to find out what drives her in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

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My dad got me started in sailing. He was a recreational sailor and believes that sailing teaches many important skills — independence, the ability to think on your feet, things like that. That’s definitely been true for me.

When I first started sailing in Primary Two, I actually hated it. I was really tiny for my age. When the winds got stronger, I would freak out and cry my eyes out when I was out on the water. That’s the reason why I left the sport for a while. When I returned to sailing in Primary Six, I really enjoyed it, and that’s when things started getting serious for me.

What I love most about sailing is that you’re fully out there, totally exposed to nature. No matter what the conditions are, how strong the winds are, you just have to suck it up, deal with it, and race your best.

Going into the technical side of sailing, it really trains your ability to be flexible, resilient and to never give up. If something goes wrong in a race, you have to gather yourself, bounce back and fight for your position.

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Amanda (right) and Jovina (left) hiking out as they sail upwind on the 470.

My most challenging moment as a sailor was when we didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympics. I was super disappointed because I had given so much for the games. We trained so hard and I gave up one year of school for this. I remember crying so badly over the phone when I got the news. I told my friends that “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m wasting so much of my time.”

My mum said to me, “If it makes you so unhappy, don’t do it anymore. No matter how you decide, we’re so proud of you and we just want you to be happy.” It actually took me a few weeks to think it through. I kept thinking of calling it quits for good, until I stopped training completely. But I started missing it so much — the training, the people, and that my life is so boring when I’m not sailing. That’s not what I want, so I came back in the end.

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One especially memorable moment was when I won a Youth Olympic Games qualifying race for windsurfing in Civitavecchia, Italy. This was back in 2010. I came in first and my teammate Audrey came second, so Singapore was really owning that race. We were both pumping to the finish. Jannicke, our coach, was screaming so loudly and cheering us on. She was super proud of us when we came back. It was just an incredible feeling.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from sailing is to never take nature for granted. The sea can look so calm and beautiful, but when you’re out there, you have to make a conscious effort to respect the elements. You can say the same for life as well — never take what you have for granted.

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It’s all about communication.

What I’ve learned most about sailing together with Jovina on the 470 is to be more understanding. When you sail alone, you don’t have to understand what the other person’s thinking or doing, or have to communicate what you want to do. When you’re sailing with a partner, it’s all about communication.

You’ve got to trust your partner. Be patient and committed to the team, because we all make mistakes. Don’t get angry with your partner when she messes something up, because you make mistakes as well. Know that she’s doing her best as well. And that we’re both working together to go as fast as we can.

I feel like I’m in a relationship with my partner! We quarrel,  make up and laugh together. We stay together, cook together, train and race together. You spend every single second with your partner. It’s really like being in a relationship, in the best of ways.

We quarrel, we make up, we laugh together. We stay together, cook together, train and race together. You spend every single second with your partner.
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Amanda (right) and Jovina (left) just started sailing together as a pair six months ago.

Our biggest strength is that we give our 100% all the time, no matter what. I’m sort-of a perfectionist, so I like to keep going at it, until I get it perfect before heading back to shore. I want to make full use of my training time. I don’t like to leave it half-baked.

Once in Spain, I remember we were training for more than four hours already and there was a storm approaching. Our coach was like, “We have to head back now”, but I felt that our tacks were still not perfect, so I asked “Can we just try and nail these tacks before we head back in?” He went, “Yeah, sure.” We practiced and got it right. The storm came just as we were heading back to share. It was pretty scary, with lighting and all.

We’re really excited for Rio— for the experience, to learn from the world’s best and to have fun. We’ll be racing with the world’s best and most experienced sailors, and most need three Olympic campaigns to medal, let alone win the gold. Anything is possible, but our priority is to learn and grow. Looking ahead, I’ll say Tokyo 2020. I won’t be giving myself a good shot if I go for one Olympics and then stop.

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My biggest mentor is Jannicke Stalstrom, my windsurfing coach. Even though she’s no longer coaching us, she constantly messages me every once in a while to spur me on and to give me life advice. When she heard that I had qualified for the Olympics, she was so excited as she’s a three-time Olympian herself. She said that I have to go there and enjoy the atmosphere, just soak it all in. Opportunities like these don’t come by very often; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She’s always messaging me:

“Is your passion still burning? Don’t ever forget. It’s what will keep you going.”

What’s the best advice I’ve ever received? Jannicke shared this with me: “Results aren’t everything. You just have to go out there and do your best. The most important thing is to have fun.” I think that’s why my passion for sailing is still there, through all these years. I still love doing it because I try to have fun every time I go out, instead of harping over results.

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I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, to go on mission trips. I especially want to help old people; I just have a heart for them. I’ve never really had the chance to do that because of sailing. When I begin to take a step back from training in the future, this is something I really want to do.

Believe in yourself. Whatever you’re pursuing, whether sports, the arts, or something you’re passionate about. Believe in yourself because you’ll never know what you’re capable of, unless you give it your 100%. That’s worked for me.

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Photos of Amanda & Jovina sailing are courtesy of Singapore Sailing Federation.

Cheer Amanda and Team Singapore at the Rio Olympics this August! To learn more about Sailing, join SMU Sailing for their regattas and many more adventures out at sea!

© 2018 Snapshots by SMU