Women we love
KYRA POH: It’s like how people would complain that they have exams but we have that and also the competitions. For our recent competition in Bahrain, our training occurred during our exams. So, we’d be training, studying, training, studying. I sleep at 4am.
ESQ: Do you do anything else outside of the indoor skydiving sessions? Like core training? CHOO YI XUAN: I don’t think there’ s a need to but we want to keep ourselves fit and improve our stamina. KY RAP OH: Her school has all the equipment for her to use.
ESQ: Have tried togo to YiXuan’ s sports school and… CHOO YI XU AN :[ laughs] It’s too far for her. KY RAP OH: Yeah. I don’t think I’ll travel that far… CHOO YI XUAN: To goto a gym.
There’s a cruel poetry to their lifestyles. In order to fly free, they have to sever the weighted line that pulls them down, family and friends who weigh them down.
Their average training day: they wake at the crack of dawn for school; Yi Xuan’s school ends at around two and she would head to iFly Singapore to train first. Kyra’s school would end at around five and then she’ll beeline down to train with Yi Xuan. Later, Yi Xuan will drop out at 8pm to return home and Kyra will continue her own solo training until 10pm. Even after their training ends, they still have to contend with schoolwork. Their flight time per day is two-and-a-half hours, with breaks in between every 30 minutes because of how draining a session could get.
But they still keep at it. Despite the gruelling schedule and tiredness of it all, they know that rewards await at the end of the journey.
ESQ: Do you miss out on being teenagers? KY RAP OH: Kinda. We do have to sacrifice our time with friends, of course. I’ve to call my mom to ask ‘can I please have lunch with my friends?’ and stuff like that, even when we have to train. CHOO YI XUAN: Apart of us misses that.
ESQ: Do emotions run high during the competitions? CHOO YI XUAN :[ to Kyra] I site very competition that you’d break down? KY RAP OH: Yeah.
ESQ: Do you have a good cry? KY RAP OH: More like a bad cry. I think I’m a very emotional person. I get stressed.
ESQ: What about you, YiXu an? CHOO YI XUAN: I don’t think I cry as much as Kyra. KY RAP OH: Yeah, she’s more of the comforter, telling me that it’s okay, it’s okay. CHOO YI XUAN: Sometimes she gets scolded by Auntie Carolyn or if she stresses herself out before the competition but there’s nothing I can do because that’s her right? So, I’m calming her down.
KY RAP OH: My mom doesn’t pressure us at all. She push es us to do our best but sometimes we reach that tipping point but overall, it’s all worth it. Even when I know I’d cry 10 times, I’d still go through it all.
ESQ: What’s Carolyn like as a manager? CHOO YI XUAN: I think we feel great if we make Auntie Carolyn proud of us. KY RAP OH: When she’s in manager mode, she treats us like athletes. She treats us as adult athletes. She’s hardcore. She’s full-on coach. There’s no pity or anything. CHOO YI XUAN: I think Kyra gets it worse because after she’s finished with training, she still has to see her mother at home. So, if it’s a bad training session, she will get it. She tells us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. KY RAP OH: She always tells me—which is also difficult— during a competition, that she’s no longer my mom, I’m your manager. I’m here to tell you what you have to hear. If you’re shit, I’ll tell you that you’re shit. I think this sort of candour is good but obviously, it’s tough because she may be playing the manager role but to me, she is still my mom and I’d sometimes get emotional. She’s our manager but she’s also our mom. She’s our ‘momager’.
Carolyn tells me that as a manager, she acts as an ‘honest critic’ but this role is only relegated to their training. “We work hard, yes, but we also play hard after that.” Initially, Carolyn found it tough to keep her emotions separated but it got easier to compartmentalise. And sometimes, the girls’ own nature would take over; even when the girls are drained, they would force themselves to push through the session.
To date, Team Firefly has amassed accolades and world records, and all before the legal drinking age of 18. They want to see how far they can take it in indoor skydiving while there’s still time. They are meant for each other. Yi Xuan lacks confidence so Kyra will psyche her up; Kyra gets stressed easily so Yi Xuan calms her down. The two will be a constant in one another’s life, like planets in each other’s orbit. Kyra says that she wants to go to the same university as Yi Xuan. I ask what if that doesn’t happen. They look at each other like they had never considered this, as though they haven’t thought that far ahead in the future. And just as you think that reality’s teeth are about to close in on them, they laugh and their train of thought resumes to its normal service, albeit on a different track.
Carolyn tells me: “Sometimes people forget that they are just teenagers”.
But in Yi Xuan’s defence: “How many teenagers get to train, get the satisfaction and win the World Cup?” Is it an impetuous comment or a firm-footed mission statement?
Their calling is the twin pillars of youth and beauty— their bloom affords them the opportunity of pursuit and the sheer allure that arises in that chase. They might never attain perfection but there’s something enviable in their act of trying.
As we watch them in that grandeur of weightlessness, unfettered by the worries of the world, we’re reminded that they are adolescents, and were once children, and we hope that they remain in that joy-like state for a little while longer.