Mixed reactions to NTU’s “athletes-only” gym

By Darren Ching

Athletes at the lead: Students are required to have an official sticker on their matriculation card in order to exchange for a wristband that grants access to the new Wave Gym. PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

The opening of the first-ever “athletes only” gym at The Wave – the University’s new Sports and Recreation Centre (SRC) – has ignited controversy among the student population, particularly non-college athletes who are denied access to the gym.

Unlike the recreational gyms at the various Halls of Residence and at North Hill, students must present their matriculation card with the “NTU Spirit” sticker to enter the gym at The Wave. This sticker is only given to college athletes.

With four power racks and 10 benches, the set-up at The Wave’s gym puts the hall gyms’ limited equipment in the shade.

Vanessa Teo, a final-year student from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and a member of the NTU dragonboat team, said: “The facilities at The Wave are more elaborate than the others.”

The 21-year-old added: “My hall’s gym is much smaller with a limited number of weights.”

But cheers from student athletes on the gym’s opening have been met with criticism from non-college athletes, particularly when they found out that the equipment at the old SRC gym had been moved to The Wave, thereby phasing out the former.

For bodybuilding enthusiast James Ding, a second-year student from the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, the old SRC gym was the go-to place for his workouts.

“With the movement of equipment from the old gym at SRC to The Wave, the only legitimate gym is the one at North Hill, which makes it inconvenient for those staying in halls further away,” said the 21-year-old Pioneer Hall resident.

Chief Housing and Auxiliary Services Officer Jimmy Lee explained that the gym was built to better suit the needs of the University’s athletes.

“The equipment there is intended to prepare varsity athletes for sporting competitions or post-injury rehabilitation,” said Mr Lee.

“As this gym is unmanned, non-athletes may risk injuring themselves or others from poor handling of the equipment.”

Despite this, many students feel that NTU gyms should be made available to everyone as all undergraduates pay an annual sports fee as part of their tuition charges.

Ding said: “If the university uses funds contributed by all undergraduates to maintain the sports facilities in NTU, why don’t normal students have access to The Wave’s gym?”

Olympic standard: The Wave Gym is the first gym on campus to have up to 4 Olympic-standard power racks. PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

Currently, besides the gym at The Wave, there is only one other gym in NTU that has restricted access – the National Institute of Education (NIE) gym.

There, only staff and students of NIE can access the gym.

According to NIE technical specialist Mohammed Ali, who helps to manage the facilities and equipment under the Physical Education and Sports Science department, the gym at NIE is primarily used for learning and research for students about sports science, not for weight training.

In addition, Mr Ali, who has been working at NIE for 16 years, said: “The fund from the annual sports fee does not go into maintaining the NIE gym, so it is difficult to open it for public usage.”

The athletes respond

Though the exclusivity of the gym at The Wave seeks to benefit varsity players in general, the move has drawn mixed responses from them.

NTU floorballer Jade Rivera, 21, described the exclusivity as “great”.

The final-year Sport Science and Management student said: “This exclusivity helps teams get their planned workouts done, thus contributing to the enhancement of their performance and benefiting NTU when teams win medals.”

While NTU rugby player Ng Wei Meng, 22, appreciates that the university is giving college athletes priority in using the new gym, he feels that the exclusivity should be periodical.

“It is such a pity that not everyone is able to use these amazing facilities. Nearing the periods of competition, IVP (Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic) players can be given priority. But for the remaining time periods, the gym should be open to all,” said the second-year Nanyang Business School student.

When asked if the current ruling on The Wave’s gym can be changed to allow IVP teams to book the gym instead of closing out the place entirely to the average NTU student, the SRC management said they would track the situation closely.

“We are aware that some students may want to use these specific equipment. The SRC management will monitor the demand during off-peak periods before considering opening the gym to general users,” said Mr Lee.