Multiplying one’s talent requires dedication and sacrifice. Pamela Chua, a Silver medallist at the recent SEA Games shares her journey through competitive squash.
When Pamela Chua was just 9, she picked up squash as a sport and discovered she had a knack for it. “I first started competing when I was 10,” she says. “It was a mixed category match in the Under-11 junior tournament and I remember losing to one of the boys quite easily!”
But that didn’t deter her. She says, “I started representing Singapore in some regional tournaments around age 12. I would train three to four times a week after school. Sometimes training would be from 7 to 10pm. Trying to juggle between studies and squash was a challenge but it definitely helped me to build my character and determination, as well as time management skills!”
Chua, now 27, has come a very long way since. She was one in a team of four national squash players to compete at the 2017 SEA (Southeast Asian) Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this past August. The women’s team took the Silver—a nice addition to the first Gold that the men’s team had won in 22 years.
Chua faithfully built on her talent: she was part of the Raffles Girls Secondary School squash team, and continued to be in the school teams when she entered Raffles Junior School and later, Stanford University.
The support and sacrifice of her family kept her going. “My parents were very supportive and encouraging of my passion,” says Chua. “Given that I spend a lot of time training and competing, I had to prioritize and give up some of the other things in my social life. My parents also had to sacrifice and take time to accompany me on my squash trips.”
Her hard work paid off. Chua’s team came in fifth at the 2009 Asian Junior Squash Championships, and she was in the Top 8 of US College Squash in 2011-2012. She also won the Richey Award in 2013, which is awarded to the Stanford women’s college squash player who best exemplifies the ideals of squash. That same year, she was presented the Dick and Anne Gould Captain’s Award in 2013—this award is presented to the senior captain who has exhibited uncommon leadership.
This year’s SEA Games was Chua’s return to the sport after she started working a few years ago. “Coming back to compete again this time for the Games, I had to figure a way to juggle both full-time work as well as training. I basically spent all my time purely on work and squash for the months leading up to the competition,” she says.
The 2017 SEA Games was special to Chua. “It was the first multi-sport event that I was a part of. It was one of the most memorable ones because the atmosphere was great as we cheered on our fellow Singapore athletes in the other sports as well,” she says.
The Silver the women’s squash team won was a great achievement. “We were very happy about the win as it was an improvement in our standing, compared to the SEA Games two years ago,” says Chua. “Our match in the finals was also pretty tight, so overall we were satisfied with our performance.
“I want to give a shout-out to our family, friends and colleagues—we couldn’t have done it without their support and encouragement!”
THE MIRACLES OF GOD IN HER LIFE
Chua first came to City Harvest Church at the age of 12, when her sister, a member, brought her and her parents to church.
“I grew up in Sunday school and knew the Gospel from a young age, but I only really grew in my faith when I was a bit older when I experienced first-hand the miracles that God has done in my life,” says Chua.
Over the years, Chua has witnessed God healing her mother of a number of health problems, even one that was very serious. Chua herself had to go through knee surgery when she tore her ligament at age 17. “I thought that it would be hard to compete at a high level again but I came back even stronger and played at the top position in Stanford squash,” she testifies.
She adds, “It was through these difficult moments that made me realize how real God is and that He is indeed our Healer and Redeemer in every situation that we face. That has made me bolder even as I constantly face challenges and obstacles in life and at work.
“I always felt that sports was one of the ways I could glorify God and that was very important to me. When I get nervous before a match I would always say a prayer before going into the court, knowing that God was in control. Even when there were disappointing moments and unexpected injuries, being a Christian and knowing His Word was my pillar of strength and God’s grace was always sufficient to lead me through all the difficult moments.”
After junior college, Chua was awarded a full scholarship to Stanford University in the US. “This was a miracle as it was in 2009 while the economy was still going through the financial crisis and there weren’t many organizations that wanted to give out scholarships. My undergraduate degree was Mathematical and Computational Science and Masters in Financial Mathematics.” Chua was keen on Stanford because “it was a place where I could play squash at a relatively high level and also get a great education—not to mention the amazing weather and campus in Stanford!”
Today, Chua works in an investment bank in global markets as a structurer, delivering customized products and solutions. The decision to return to training for the SEA Games was not an easy one.
“I had to overcome self-doubts, injuries and disappointing losses in tournaments,” says Chua. “There were times when I lost the motivation to train but I would always be so encouraged when I mediate on His Word and listen to the sermons during church every week. I knew that I had to submit all my anxieties and worries into His hand and His grace will be sufficient for me. Having the full assurance that God knew exactly how I felt and that He cares for me like a loving Father was what really carried me through the challenging moments.”
Chua also had the support of her cell group, led by pastor Aries Zulkarnain. “Pastor Aries was very encouraging and also prayed for me before I went to the Games. Other members sent me encouraging text messages as well. [Harvest Kidz] Pastor Eileen was also upholding me in prayer during the games,” she said.
In sharing her story, Chua hopes “to inspire the next generation to keep believing in themselves and that all things are possible with God. We should never set limits on what we can achieve because our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”