Scaling new heights: NUS student-athletes graduate with sporting excellence

Training, studying, more training and yet more studying. The life of a student-athlete can be a blur of schoolwork and competitions, requiring immense self-discipline and time management skills. 

From the badminton court to the fencing piste, on the skating rink, or in the waters, these four newly graduated NUS student-athletes have demonstrated their personal bests both in the sporting arena and their academic pursuits. 

As the graduates prepare to embark on their new chapters in life upon Commencement this July 2023, they reflect on the achievements they faced, the challenges they overcame and the highlights of their time in school. 

Matthew Scott Lau: Sailing into the winds of compassion 

National sailor Matthew Scott Lau is not one to back down from a challenge. Not only did he emerge champion of the SB20 Asia-Pacific Championship sailing competition, he accomplished this while studying for his medical degree. 

Asked how he juggles sports and studies, he cited his favourite “cheesy but true” quote: “You can’t control the weather, but you can adjust your sails”. This metaphor resonates not only in his sailing pursuits but also his life’s journey. 

While studying Medicine has been the most academically challenging endeavour in his life so far, the 23-year-old was fuelled by the “unrivalled opportunity to make a positive impact on others every day”. 

He has been applying the same altruistic philosophy to his sailing endeavours. To raise funds for children with chronic diseases, he spearheaded the Sail SG Challenge in 2021 alongside three other NUS Medicine students. 

Using only wind power and sailing equipment provided by NUS, the team successfully sailed around the island from 25 to 26 September 2021 – in 22 hours. Their efforts raised $5,695 for the KK Women and Children’s Hospital Health Fund. 

Matthew shared, “We received many heartfelt words of encouragement and generous donations in response to the campaign. We were incredibly appreciative of the overwhelming support and hope our efforts helped to make a small difference!” 

Matthew will be receiving his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree on 8 July 2023. The young doctor is currently doing his housemanship at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. 

Jeannie Su: Dancing to her own beat 

Jeannie Su has achieved a perfect equilibrium between her studies and sports. The former national figure skater-turned-coach and newly minted Pharmaceutical Science graduate quipped, “I skate to escape school, and I go to school to escape skating!” 

She has also had a passion for dance since she was 14. In 2019, she joined the dance team for NUS Rag & Flag, a signature charity project held during NUS’ freshman orientation each year. 

“Everyone worked hard and did well. Emotions ran high, and tears were shed,” she said. “It was a great introduction to student life.” 

That same year, Jeannie joined NUS’ contemporary dance group, Dance Synergy, where she found that dance enhanced her artistic expression when skating. By expanding her repertoire of movements, she could express herself in new, diverse ways on ice. 

With her interest in healthcare and drug safety, the 22-year-old hopes to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Although she retired from figure skating last year, she continues to stay involved as a coach. 

“I don’t envision coaching as my full-time profession because I studied Pharmaceutical Science. But skating holds a significant place in my life, so I hope to continue coaching as much as my future job permits,” she said.

Eng Chin An: Expanding horizons beyond the classroom 

Eng Chin An is a man of many interests. But among his many extracurricular activities, one has stood the test of time: badminton. 

Having played the sport since he was seven, Chin An captained NUS’ badminton varsity team for two years. He likened university-level badminton competitions to “mini gatherings with friends”, as most competitors have also been playing since young. 

“Everyone complained about work, exams or projects, but still made the time to go for training,” the NUS Sports Scholar said of the tertiary badminton circuit. “It was quite heart-warming.” 

His deep love for the sport saw him inaugurating NUS Racketlon in 2022. The campus-wide competition featured four racket sports: badminton, tennis, squash and table tennis. As Project Director, he worked with the other sports captains to bring the event to life. 

While juggling a major in Real Estate and a minor in Urban Studies, he also held various leadership roles as the Marketing Executive for the NUS Students’ Sports Club, Deputy Director of Global Relations for NUS Students’ Union, and Academic Liaison for NUS Design & Environment Club. 

“There are opportunities to learn and fail, and from there, you pick up skills and build confidence over the years,” the 26-year-old said, adding that these roles allowed him to execute innovative ideas and work with students from other faculties, enriching his university experience. 

Chin An graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Real Estate. While he no longer plays badminton competitively, he hopes to exercise his newfound confidence in his experimental pursuits this year as a freelance photographer, real estate salesperson, and badminton coach.

Kiria Tikanah: Excelling in fencing and academics 

Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman holds the honour of being the first Singaporean woman to compete in the épée event at the Olympics. But few in NUS knew this. 

Up until she started gaining some publicity for her maiden outing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 22-year-old NUS Chemistry graduate kept her fencing endeavours discreet. She mentioned it only when explaining her upcoming absence ahead of the Olympics to her professors, who were always patient and understanding. 

When she trained for a month and a half in Budapest, her professors recorded their lectures and rescheduled her exams to accommodate her trainings and competitions. “It was a very stressful time for me, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the university’s support,” said Kiria. 

NUS also helped her to arrange her classes and exams around her training schedule. “I became more independent because I got to decide what I wanted to do, and how to plan my schedule accordingly,” she shared. 

She is grateful for her friends in Chemistry who helped her to enjoy NUS’ vibrant campus life, providing some normalcy amidst her rigorous training schedule. 

“My friends and I would run around to try out different canteens, and try to make it back to class in time,” she said. “They really helped me integrate school life and training.” 

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Kiria will commence full-time training for a year to prepare and qualify for upcoming international competitions, including the 2024 Paris Olympics. In the meantime, the fencing trailblazer intends to sharpen her blade in a number of upcoming competitions such as the Asian Fencing Championships, World Fencing Championships, Asian Games, as well as several Fencing Grand Prix and World Cups in the qualifying season leading up to Olympics. 

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2023, which celebrates the achievements of our graduates from the Class of 2023. For more on Commencement, read our stories and graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up and tag #NUS2023 on our social media channels!