Lincoln Forest Liqht Man

The Straits Times Young Star of the Month: Fightback to realise his dreams

Gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man, 17, won four golds, one silver and two bronzes in July's Asean Schools Games. He is determined to achieve a SEA Games podium spot and compete in the Olympics.
Gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht Man, 17, won four golds, one silver and two bronzes in July's Asean Schools Games. He is determined to achieve a SEA Games podium spot and compete in the Olympics.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Support of coaches, team-mates helped gymnast assess priorities after he suffered a wrist injury

A split second on the eve of Chinese New Year was all it took for gymnast Lincoln Forest Liqht (pronounced Light) Man to realise something was wrong.

He had fallen off the vault while training and landed on his right wrist - it hurt, as all injuries do, but although there was no sound and nothing seemed to be broken, the 17-year-old knew this was no "little blister or minor injury" that gymnasts are more prone to.

This injury, a partial tear in the scaffold ligament, threatened to derail his training and competition plans for the rest of the year, and caused him to consider quitting gymnastics to concentrate on his studies.

"I had already planned my goals and competitions for the year all the way till September and I'd also been doing a lot of conditioning during the off-season," said the Singapore Sports School student.

"At that point, I was thinking that if I've been training so hard and increasing the difficulty of my routines, only to be injured and possibly unable to compete, why not just focus on my studies, get my IB (the International Baccalaureate) diploma, do my national service and be done with the sport?"

But he wanted to make a sound decision, so it was only after seeking the advice of his teachers and classmates, who were also sportsmen, that he decided to persevere.

He said: "I looked at the bigger picture. I can always attain academic achievements at a later date, but I can only do for sport a short time.

SETTING PRIORITIES

I looked at the bigger picture. I can always attain academic achievements at a later date, but I can only do for sport a short time... Even if I don't get anywhere, at least I gave it a shot.

LINCOLN FOREST LIQHT MAN, on continuing his sporting career.

"At 30, (male) gymnasts are considered old and most retire at 25 or 26. I decided to just push a bit more, make the effort to recover and grow a bit more, and see where I end up.

"Even if I don't get anywhere, at least I gave it a shot."

The shot that Lincoln took landed him four golds, one silver and two bronzes at the July Asean Schools Games, making him Singapore's top performer at the annual event.

The Republic's gymnastics contingent contributed the most gold medals to the host nation's overall tally with a total of nine golds, five silvers and six bronzes.

For his achievement, Lincoln won The Straits Times Young Star of the Month award for school athletes. The award is an extension of ST's Star of the Month and Athlete of the Year awards. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.

Said ST sports editor Lee Yulin: "Lincoln's four-gold achievement at the Asean Schools Games is impressive.

"But what is even more notable is the fact that he did not give up on the sport and his dreams even when injury set him back."

Standing 1.8m, Lincoln acknowledges the disadvantages of being a "bigger" gymnast, including greater susceptibility to injuries and lapses in form being more noticeable to judges during competitions.

But two things keep him going: the encouragement from his coaches and team-mates who push him to complete his training sets, and the satisfaction he feels after completing a routine.

He added with a laugh: "I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but my performances generally look more impressive - when smaller gymnasts fly through the air, they look small. But as my body is long, I look a bit more graceful."

Lincoln still looks back at the split second that almost caused him to give up gymnastics as a key moment of the year. Looking ahead, however, he aims to create memories in the sport that will likely last a lifetime: winning a SEA Games medal, and qualifying for the Olympic Games.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline 'Fightback to realise his dreams'. Print Edition | Subscribe