It’s not everyday that Yale athletes represent their country at an internationally acclaimed sporting event, but Nicole and Tabitha Tay ’14 are doing just that.The twins travelled to New Delhi, India last Tuesday on their way to represent Singapore atthe 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Nicole and Tabithaqualified for thegames after strong performancesat the 2010 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships last spring in the all-around competition, placing17thand21st respectively.Both are hoping to repeat their successduring this week’s games.
The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics, isan international athletics competition that takes place every four years. In addition to traditional Olympic events, the Commonwealth Games also features regionally popular sports, such as lawn bowls and netball.
Both Tabitha and Nicolesaid via e-mail that they are thrilled at the opportunity to represent Singapore at theinternational competition.
“I feel that it is an honor to compete for my country,” Nicole said.“Representing Singapore in theseCommonwealth Games is like a dream come true.”
And for the Tays, that dream has been ten years in the making. Nicole and Tabitha didn’t always know about their talents on the beam. It wasn’t until the twins were nine years old that a school coach noticed the Tays’ potential in the sport.
“We were selected to be part of our school team at the age of nine mainly because the coach saw that our petite stature was a good attribute to have as a gymnast,” Tabitha said.
And that coach changed their lives forever. Over the years, the Tays have competed in numerous international events, including the 2007 World Championshipsand the 2008 Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships. When head gymnastics coach Barbara Tonry saw the videos of their performances during the recruiting process, she was excited about having the twins on the squad.
“They both have excellent skills,” Tonry said. “I was very excited about the prospect of them coming here.”
The Tays said they were excited to come to Yale, citing the gymnastics team as one of the reasons they chose to come to the school.
“My teammates at Yale are very supportive and fun-loving,” Nicole said. “It [will] be really awesome to get a chance to compete with them.”
While Tonry believes the Tays’ international experience will be a positive contribution to the team, she added that the twins will have several obstacles to overcome in collegiate competition.Nicole and Tabithawill have to tweak their practice routinesonce the team begins its seasonand acclimate to a different more artistic judging style that is used in the NCAA versus that in international competition.
“They havemuch more difficult rules than the NCAA has,” Tonry said. “[In international competition]on beam it’s very little dance, it’s only skill, skill, skill.In the NCAA, they count the artistic ability in your dance and how you present yourself.”
But despite this necessary transition, Tonry said that she hopes the two Branfordians will forge stronger bonds with their teammates in the college setting than with their counterparts abroad.
“Being a part of a [foreign] team like that is good, but it’s not the same as the camaraderie you would have here at auniversity,” Tonry said.
The Tays alsohave the luxury of turning to each other for support, as well as their coaches and teammates. Despite constantly competing against each other, both Nicole and Tabitha said they believe gymnastics has strengthened their relationship as sisters.
“I think in a way gymnastics has brought us closer because we go through the same experiences, like having bad training days and feeling really exhausted after a hard training,” Nicole said.“But at the same time we go through the same joy every time we win or achieve success.”
The all-around gymnastics competition is scheduled to run from October 4 to October 8 at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi.