Singaporean underwater hockey athlete Christina Tham is a SEA Games veteran. Her first time representing her country in the biennial meet was as a national swimmer in the 1981 SEA Games. She was only 12.
At 14, she again joined the swimming event as part of the Singaporean contingent.
For her performance in these Games, she earned two silver medals. For her first Games, she placed second for the 4X100 medley relay. Two years later, she won the silver at the 200m breaststroke.
The talented athlete would preserve her passion for aquasports throughout her life. Though the gold eluded her, she never lost her passion for the water. More importantly, she never gave up her dream of representing her country.
Finally, nearly four decades later, Tham has won her well-deserved gold. But in another interesting twist – it was for her performance as part of Singapore’s underwater hockey team!
The former national swimmer found her first place victory after changing her sport – and waiting 38 years.
“It feels incredible, awesome, unbelievable. I don’t know if anyone else has done or is doing what I’m doing,” said Tham.
The 50-year-old athlete won her first gold for the 4×4 competition on Wednesday.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to wait long to get her next gold. The very next day, Singapore beat the Philippine team 3-0 at the 6×6 event.
“I hope that it also sends a message out to everyone that age is really just a number and that you are only as old as you feel,” said Tham.
Tham began competing as a national swimmer at such a young age because, even then, she was “the fastest breaststroker in Singapore”.
In 2005, Tham was introduced to underwater hockey through an advertisement in the local newspaper.
“I decided to pick it up because it would leverage on my swimming ability plus it would challenge me in a team sport, as opposed to an individual sport,” explained Tham.
“I think it’s usually quite difficult for individual sportspeople to go into a team sport and I wanted to do that because I felt that in life, it’s really about getting success by learning to work with people,” continued Tham.
“There’s that saying that if you want to go fast, you go on your own, but if you want to go long, then you go with your team.”
The 30th SEA Games, hosted by the Philippines, is the first time underwater hockey has been featured in the biennial sporting event. It seems like the timing was just right for Tham.
“It has taken many years of refining the skill because it’s really a combination of fitness – both aerobic and anaerobic, as well as skills … speed teamwork, knowing how each of your other teammate plays so that you can just predict the move and follow up that move,” said Tham.
“It has taken many years of refining the skill because it’s really a combination of fitness – both aerobic and anaerobic, as well as skills … speed teamwork, knowing how each of your other teammate plays so that you can just predict the move and follow up that move.”