In conversation with 18-Year-Old Tia Louise Rozario, first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant

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"While I have grown to be more independent and clear about my own journey, my family still remains my biggest support system. It makes everything easier, knowing that they have been there every step of the way and will always have my back no matter what."

18-year old Singaporean Tia Louise Rozario is a track and field athlete from the Singapore Sports School and the first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant, a $5,000 cash award to support talented Eurasians in Singapore in their sporting and academic pursuits.

Tia has already won six gold medals with a record of 15.17 seconds for sprint hurdles at the National School Track and Field Championship. Dominating the hurdling crown, she has completed her nine-year streak at being at the top.

theAsianparent asks Tia what it feels to have already made a name for herself at such a young age and what advice she has for children who want to pursue sports as a profession. 

Read on!

Inspiring Eurasians in Singapore: Tia Louise Rozario, first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your ancestry.

"My mother is Chinese and my father is a Eurasian of Portuguese descent. I am the middle child, with an older brother who has taught me most of what I know, and my baby brother who never fails to make me laugh with his silly dance moves."

How did your interest in sports start? Who was your biggest support system? 

"I was lucky enough to have parents who believed that children should be given the opportunity to explore their strengths and weaknesses, and discover their passion through sports and activities. I was first introduced to tennis at the age of 3, by my family who played tennis often for leisure.

"Soon after, I started off in ballet classes which suited my passion for the arts.

"Fast forward to age 12, I was locally ranked 1st for tennis doubles for my age group, completed grade 5 for ballet, achieved a gold with honours at the Singapore Youth Festival with my school’s Chinese Dance team, competed in golf tournaments, completed the gold standard in swimming, reached the advanced level in inline skating and had broken a few records in Track and Field.

"I also managed to bag a few trophies in Chinese Calligraphy and Rugby along the way.

"While these titles might seem impressive, the beauty of this childhood I was blessed with was that I had fun. It was out of genuine curiosity that I participated in so many activities at one time.

"I owe it all to my parents, who encouraged me to be adventurous and allowed me to have a go at whatever I wanted to. They were always there to bring me out of the pool, into my skates, then into my leotard or back to the courts in the same day.

Eurasians in Singapore, Tia Louise Rozario

"They are at every performance and competition, local or international, to cheer me on and remind me of how proud they are of me no matter how I perform."

When did you know that you wanted to be a sportswoman? Were your parents always supportive of your decision?

"I attended Nanyang Primary School and the Singapore Sports School for my secondary and pre-university education under the IB program. It was in the Singapore Sports School where I took a step back from all the sports I was pursuing and chose to commit my time to Track and Field.

"Stumbling from one event to another, I was never fully certain about my future in Track and Field when I first started.

"All I knew was that I wanted to be great, and I wanted to bring glory with the talent that I was blessed with.

"While I have grown to be more independent and clear about my own journey, my family still remains my biggest support system. It makes everything easier, knowing that they have been there every step of the way and will always have my back no matter what."

Have there been any challenges in pursuing your passion as a Eurasian? Have you ever been accused of not being Singaporean enough, because of your ancestry?

"The most common questions I get are ‘why are you so tall?’ and ‘what is your race?’, to which my 177cm self will reply, ‘I am tall, and that is probably because I am Eurasian’.

"It is hilarious when I compete overseas and locals of different countries think I am a fellow local and would first speak to me in their native language before figuring from my confused expression that I am not from there.

Eurasians in Singapore, Tia Louise Rozario

"Over the years I have learned to embrace my unique ethnicity as it is a part of my identity which I am proud of. While some Singaporeans have doubts about us who look just a little different from the rest of the general population, I believe that what matters is that I understand and remember that I am a Singaporean."

Please tell us more about your achievements so far...

"I am currently the U19, U17 and U15 record holder for women’s long jump and defended my national schools sprint hurdles title from 2010-2018.

Eurasians in Singapore, Tia Louise Rozario

"My best performance at a competition series would be winning the 2016 and 2017 Southeast Asian Youth Athletic Championships for women’s Long Jump. The most recent international competition I competed in would be the Hong Kong Intercity Athletic Championships 2018 last July where I clinched gold in the Long Jump and Triple Jump, which was a debut event for me.

"Apart from Track and Field, I topped my cohort academically in 2016 and 2017, and concluded my journey at the Singapore Sports School with a score of 43/45 for my IB examinations.

"I have since been accepted into Princeton University and NUS."

Congratulations on being the first recipient of the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant! When it comes to sportsmen/women, who have been your biggest inspiration?

"Joseph Schooling has always been a big inspiration for me. The sacrifices he made and defeats he came back from gave me the courage to commit myself to my Olympic dream.

"Dipna Lim has also been a role model to me. Apart from being an Olympian, she started the In My Shoes campaign which recycles shoes to help make sports more accessible for more Singaporeans.

"I hope that I will be able to give back to the community in the future like Joseph and Dipna have."

Is life as a sportswoman in Singapore tough? What does a normal day look like?

"Now that I have graduated, my days are not as busy as they used to be with classes, trainings and other commitments packed into every week.

Eurasians in Singapore, Tia Louise Rozario

"However, I have stepped up my training to six days a week. This means that almost every morning, I will have to roll out of bed at 7am to get ready for trainings no matter how sore or exhausted I am. After my work out session, however, I feel refreshed and accomplished.

"Given the fast paced lifestyle of Singapore, trying to handle and navigate through a student-athlete lifestyle can be daunting. I am thankful that my parents have never set any standards or put any unnecessary pressure on me to excel in both sports and academics.

"When motivation comes from within instead of an external source, there is a much stronger and more sustainable fire in you driving you to succeed. As Joseph Schooling shared with me, “don’t worry about the expectations, you should do it for yourself”."

What is your advice to children who want to pursue sports as a profession?

"Don’t be afraid to be adventurous, and learn to accept failure along the way. We should only allow our defeats to shape us, not define us."

"Have courage and seize every opportunity you get to do what you love. It is the 21st century, you can be whoever you want to be."

Thank you, Tia, for sharing your very inspiring story with us. Here's wishing you the very best in chasing your dreams. May no hurdle be too high for you to overcome!

Also READ: Joseph Schooling's mum May Schooling on how to raise a great athlete!

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Written by

Jaya