Wednesday 10 July 2013

WorldSkills Leipzig 2013: Singapore team bags 3 golds, 2 silvers at 'Skills Olympics'

Hard work, training pay off for team which did well despite stiff competition
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

IT WAS a contest that the 19-year-old had trained very hard for in the last two years.

Then, on the third day of the WorldSkills competition in Leipzig, Germany, Nanyang Polytechnic student Jason Soh could barely keep awake and that affected his performance.

"I was really tired as I did not get much sleep the past few nights," said the third-year information security student, who was required to set up network solutions, such as e-mail systems. "I was very careless. I even misread the question and did some tasks wrongly."

But last Saturday, the fourth and final day of the contest, he picked himself up and bagged the coveted gold in the IT Network Systems Administration category. It was the seventh straight time since 2001 that Singapore won in that category.

The biennial competition, organised by non-profit group WorldSkills International, aims to promote vocational training and education. This year, 1,007 competitors from 53 countries took part in what was its biggest competition yet.

Singapore also sent its largest team of 22, picked from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the five polytechnics here. They competed in 20 categories. The team won two more golds in Beauty Therapy and Health and Social Care, and two silvers in IT Software Solutions for Business, and Information Network Cabling.

It also picked up nine medallions of excellence. South Korea finished top with 23 medals, including 12 golds. In the 2011 competition, Singapore took home 14 medals, including three golds.

ITE chief executive Bruce Poh, who was the official delegate to the Singapore team, described this event as "hyper competitive". "Our competitors have trained very hard, and they have achieved very good results, bearing in mind that Singapore is still a very small country."

For Republic Polytechnic graduate Ong Kang Yu, who won silver in Information Network Cabling, it was an unusual learning experience. The 21-year-old had to deal with representatives from other countries taking videos and pictures of him through the contest.

It was twice as special for ITE beauty and spa management graduate Catherine Boey, who won gold in the Beauty Therapy category. She was invited by the category sponsor, German beauty and spa company Ionto-Comed, on a week-long trip to travel around Germany and learn more about the country's beauty therapy market.

Turning 20 tomorrow, Ms Boey said she could not ask for a better present. "It was quite stressful as in the last WorldSkills, Singapore won gold in this category for the first time. But I told myself to just do my best."

Forced to compete alone after change in rules
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

SHORN of her partner because of a rules change, and forced to compete alone at the WorldSkills contest, Ms Audrey Foo started to feel nervous even before she landed in Germany. The 21-year-old broke out in tears at Changi Airport on June 28 just as the Singapore team was preparing to fly to Leipzig.

"I felt very pressured to do well, because Singapore won gold in my category in the past three contests," said the Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, who contested the Health and Social Care category.

Since it was added to the competition in 2007, Singapore has topped the category each time. But a change of rules turned the contest into an individual event. This meant a choice had to be made between Ms Foo and her polytechnic coursemate Gladys Aw, 20. The duo developed a close working relationship on the way to winning gold at WorldSkills Singapore, the local version of the competition.

"When you have a partner, there is someone to motivate you," said Ms Foo.

But she was not alone in Leipzig. Ms Aw flew there to support her. When it was announced that Singapore had claimed its fourth straight gold in the category, beating 11 other competitors, there were tears on stage from Ms Foo, and from Ms Aw, who was in the audience. "I felt really happy for Audrey, that she made it," said Ms Aw.

Ms Foo, who also won the Best of Nation award for the highest score among Singaporean competitors, said: "Before WorldSkills Singapore, Gladys and I were just hi-bye friends. But through this we grew much closer."

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