Secrets of super kids
They’re all below 16, but look what these kids have achieved – two are champs at unusual sports, one is a classical opera singer and yet another is a TEDx speaker. What drives them and their parents?
Carolyn Teo, who runs her own advertising rm, has a different view when it comes to school and her child’s sports career.
Her daughter, Kyra Poh, 15, is the Junior Freestyle Champion of the World, and Carolyn is willing to let her put school on hold for a few years to pursue her passion for indoor skydiving to the max.
Kyra rst tried the sport when her mother asked if she wanted to appear in a video for iFly Singapore. Since then, she has not looked back.
“I’m off the ground when I’m ying and I love the feeling of being completely free with no boundaries,” she says. “I also love that it is a combination of many sports, from the graceful movements of ice skating and gymnastics to super fast dynamic (movements) like a sprinter.”
She has since built up an enviable track record, with ve Guinness World of Records titles under her name. They include “Most Backward Somersaults in a Wind Tunnel
in a Minute” (she completed 68), and Most Number of Passes Through a Hula Hoop by a Pair in a Wind Tunnel in a Minute”, in which she and her partner did 49.
On top of that, the thirdyear School of the Arts student is also a champion in the Solo Freestyle Open and Solo Speed Open categories at the 2017 Wind Games. She has also been winning various international indoor skydiving competitions.
EXAMS CAN WAIT
Carolyn, who has another daughter, seven, thinks that people put too much emphasis on academic goals, and even more on how fast a person achieves them. She sees her children’s lives as a journey, and there is no need to rush because every day is an experience in itself.
“What difference does it make if Kyra graduates with a degree when she’s 21 or at 24?,” she asks, adding that it would be a big waste if she couldn’t pursue her sport because of an examination.
“I’m all about experience, and I think what Kyra has garnered from the sport has given her a journey that far surpasses what you would get from school.”
She is all for her daughters taking responsibility for their lives, so Kyra decides whether or not she needs tuition or extra training programmes.
“This aspect of my parenting style is very much inuenced by my late father, who taught me that the hardest thing to do is to give your child the freedom to make all decisions – good or bad.”
Her tip for raising a super-achiever kid? “Let your child live her life, not yours,” she says. “When they love something, they always do it best without being told how to.”
Which is exactly what Kyra is doing. Two years ago, she was picked for the David Marshall scholarship in her school and admits having difculty juggling school, training and tuition.
“Because of my busy schedule, I don’t have much time to rest or spend time with my friends,” says Kyra. “But I love ying and I know I have to make the sacrice if I want to do this seriously while juggling school.”
She hopes that indoor skydiving will one day be an Olympic sport and she would be able to represent Singapore.
Even if it doesn’t happen, “I will be ying my whole life if possible, whether or not as a career, but denitely as a sport.” At the age of 10, Dylan Soh did what few kids his age do: He gave his rst TEDx talk in Singapore. It was about urban farming.
When he was 12, he gave his second talk – to an audience of 1,800 people, about a book his father wrote and which he illustrated, about self-condence, empathy and adaptability.
He’s no straight A student, either. In fact, he “passed only three subjects midterm” says his father, Calvin Soh, leading his teacher to say that he was underperforming.
But rather than punish Dylan or ramp up his tuition, the former advertising veteran asks only that his son try his best, and at least pass his exams.
“I asked him to come up with a plan, and we’re working on it. The pressure he faces isn’t the same as the other kids. There’s nothing wrong with pressure, but there’s something wrong if it’s only about exams – because life isn’t about exams.”
While he started out as the “typical Singaporean parent” who followed his own parents’ methods of upbringing, Calvin decided that life skills would be the priority for his children over academic excellence.
Instead of focusing on grades, he wants Dylan, 14, and his sister Ava, 11, to “nd themselves, know who they are, be productive for the greater good, to nd purpose and prot from it”.
DYLAN SOH 14, CREATOR AND TEDX SPEAKER