Extreme profs

Toss your stereotypes of professors away. Derek Rodriguez meets five whose achievements in sports rival their academic accomplishments

“May I ski?”
Photos: Mark Teo
Assoc Prof May Oo Lwin
Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences

She has won medals for Singapore at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and Asian Championships for trick skiing. Although the Associate Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences has hung up her professional skis for a decade, her legacy lives on through her daughter, a national slalom skier.

Which way the wind blows. I started water skiing right after graduating from university. My boyfriend and now husband was a very keen sailor. We would go sailing in his Hobie Cat, a small sailing catamaran. But in the six months or so of the year when there wasn’t enough wind, we looked for something that wasn’t dependent on the wind. I tried water skiing and really liked it. Then I started training regularly and competing.

Work for your love. It’s not a sport that you can easily make a career of, like golf or tennis. Most people involved in this sport have got to work in order to pay for it. At that time, I was working in Citibank in Shenton Way as a marketing communications manager. I would train at Kallang River for an hour from 7am, then rush to work. Now, we have programmes where employers support the athletes, such as in NTU.

Wet and wow. I have represented Singapore in many Asian and world-level competitions, and the best was winning bronze at the Asian level. But the most significant achievement is probably getting a silver medal in the 1997 SEA Games. I had just given birth a year earlier. I somehow managed to juggle not just work, but also family and skiing.

It runs in the family. My children and my husband ski, so we are very involved in the ski community. I am a national level judge as well. One of my daughters is a national skier and she trains regularly. I asked her if she would want to take a year off school to train full-time, but she said no. She wants to continue with her studies and try to balance both.
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The ties that bind. The social aspect is partly why I’ve stayed in the sport for so long. It’s a small community and in the competitive circle, I have made lifelong friends from all over the world. I like the fact that it is also a family sport. Some of my past competitors have kids who are competing against my daughter now. My daughter just came back from a competition in the US, where she met some of the families of people I encountered 20 years ago.