One hit at a time: Road to KL

By Darren Ching

PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

When it comes to scoring crucial goals, the Singapore men’s hockey team can count on Timothy Goh to deliver the goods.

The third-year Sports Science and Management (SSM) student bagged the equaliser in the 2015 South East Asian (SEA) Games finals against neighbouring Malaysia. The game ended with the countries drawn at 2-2 and a penalty shoot-out ensued, but the Republic eventually lost 3-4.

“Scoring the equaliser was definitely a highlight but my proudest moment was the first time I played for Singapore,” said the 23-year-old centre forward, who has been playing hockey for the last 13 years. 

Making the switch

Goh has come a long way since he picked up his first hockey stick at age 10. At 20 years old, he was handed his first international cap during the Asian Games Qualifiers in Bangladesh.

But his versatility was put to the test when the former Raffles Junior College player was asked to compete in unfamiliar territory for last month’s SEA Games – indoor hockey.  

Indoor hockey made its debut in last month’s Games, held from 19 to 30 Aug in Kuala Lumpur. Unlike field hockey, which is played on an artificial turf field with 11 players on each team, the six-a-side indoor hockey game is played on a parquet or synthetic court enclosed by downward sloping sideboards.

Goh said: “At first, I was a bit apprehensive having not played it (indoor hockey) before. I thought it was a lesser version of field hockey.

“But after the first few trainings, the fast nature of the game got me hooked.”

Despite being a seasoned hockey player, Goh took no shortcuts and trained hard four times a week – each session lasting four hours or more.

On the challenges of picking up this variant of the sport, Goh said indoor hockey requires players to remain low throughout the match, thus straining their thighs and lower back.

He added that the game’s fast and intensive nature forces players to develop swifter reflexes as they have to continuously change their direction in a smaller court. Compared to a field hockey pitch, which is slightly smaller than a football field, the size of an indoor hockey court is roughly the same as a basketball court.

To adapt to these differences, Goh made it a point to train outside his scheduled training sessions.

“During the summer, I went to the gym twice and ran thrice a week in addition to my national trainings,” said Goh.

Sacrificing family time

As preparations for the SEA Games intensified, Goh had to compromise on sleep and family time. But he made sure to prioritise his academics, by spending most of his free time catching up on school work, even during overseas competitions.  

“I’ve went on overseas competitions since (age) 17, so it becomes easier to know when to squeeze out that few extra hours to study,” he said.

For most of the week, Goh’s classes in the University begin at 8.30am. After a full day of lessons, he then travels to Woodlands Sports Stadium from NTU for training, leaving him with as little as five hours of sleep each day.

But this was not the biggest sacrifice Goh had to make.

Weekend training trips saw him missing numerous extended family gatherings in the past five months. He even had to cancel on family holidays on other occasions.

While his parents have been supportive of his pursuits, Goh, an only child, said: “I look forward to such adventures when training trips take me to places like Australia or Bangladesh but it’s unfortunate not being able to travel with my family for so long.”

Though balancing work, life and sport has not been not easy, he has no intention of giving up hockey anytime soon.

“So long as I continue to be selected and my body is able, I want to continue playing for the nation until I grow old,” he said.