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DARK Past - BRIGHT Future

July 20, 2011 - 7:53pm


 TNP PHOTOS: Choo Chwee Hua

WHEN her father didn’t return home for long stretches, her relatives would tell her he was a soldier fighting a war in another land.

But as she grew older, she began to realise that the stories, no doubt cloaked in good intentions, were all lies.

When she finally accepted the truth, she was distraught.

Her beloved “pak” was a drug addict who was frequently locked behind bars for various drug offences.

Others would have wallowed in their own misfortune.

Not Syasya Rifqah, not even then, at age 13.

One night, she said: “I told myself that I would take care of my family better than my father ever did.”

She has two younger sisters, now aged 14 and 11.

Her mother, Madam Rayati Rahim, 38, is a student care teacher.

They live in a five-room HDB flat in Bukit Panjang.

Since that day in 2008, Syasya has been making all the right moves to keep her promise.

The Teck Whye Secondary School student, now 15, topped her cohort every year since enrolling there in 2008.

And she found time to lead her school to multiple hockey and floorball titles.

Syasya helped her school lift the C Division titles for both sports when she was in Secondary 1.

She led them to the double again this year in the B Division when she was captain of the floorball squad.

The defender said: “I always try to give my all and do my best.

“If an opportunity comes, I will grab it. I always want to be the best in what I do. I try not to give up.”

Gave up music

The soft-spoken athlete started out as a band member who scored average grades in Bukit Panjang Primary School.

She swapped her flute for a hockey stick at the age of 10.

“I really like music, but I realised I wasn’t so good at it. I also felt that my CCA (co-curricular activity) was too stationary.

“I wanted to move around a bit more,” she said, laughing.

She went on to represent her primary school in hockey before joining Teck Whye Secondary’s hockey and floorball teams.

Despite her good sporting record, it was a painful season in 2009 that Syasya remembers most.

Her school slumped to third place in the hockey championship and failed to reach the semi-finals of the floorball tournament.

“I felt that I did badly as captain. I put too much pressure on myself and lacked leadership skills that year.

“If I had been a better captain, my team might have won the trophy.”

Syasya felt that she failed to give clear instructions during their matches.

But her teammates disagree.

Nur Syaheeza Jefri, 16, said: “She is a good captain. She leads the team well with her optimism.

“She is a very good leader.”

Li Yi Qing, 16, added that her captain knows how to lighten the mood just before a high-pressure game.

“Syasya knows how to make us laugh before big matches.

“She brings positive energy to all of us, especially when we are nervous.

“She even tries to make us dance before the game!”

The teacher-in-charge of floorball, Ms Idayu Somdi, who was Syasya’s geography teacher in 2009, considers Syasya an “inspiration” to her peers.

The 33-year-old said: “She leads by example.

“This girl is not someone who shouts out instructions, but she shows the way to go through her actions.

“All her peers look up to her.”

Ms Idayu added that the student was very low-key in class.

“Syasya was so quiet and always gave me the ‘blur’ look. I thought she didn’t understand what I was teaching.

“But she ended up scoring the best marks.”

Syasya admits that her quiet demeanour is the result of her complicated childhood.

“I prefer to keep my problems to myself,” she said.

“Sports and schoolwork help me keep my mind occupied, but maybe I should not be too quiet.”

Her mother revealed that Syasya learnt to put her problems aside from an early age.

“Syasya knows how to keep focused when it comes to her studies and sports.

“She is a confident girl who understands her family difficulties, but doesn’t let it affect her.

“I am so blessed to have such a good daughter.”

As the O-level exams approach, Syasya, who used to train four times a week, has switched her focus on her next target.

“I want to make it to a junior college next year and play in the A Division,” she said.

“I really want to win that tournament.”


She keeps her old Barbie dolls because “it would be too ‘sayang’ to throw them away.”


Name: Syasya Rifqah

Age: 15

Height: 158cm

Weight: 52kg

Family: Sanip Abas, 43, (father, in prison); Rayati Rahim, 38, (mother, student care teacher); Syasya Ruzana, 14, and Syasya Raihah, 11 (sisters)


2011: B Division Champion for Hockey and Floorball

2010: B Division Champion for Hockey; Finished 2nd in Floorball

2009: C Division 3rd place for Hockey; No award for Floorball

2008: C Division Champion for Hockey and Floorball


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