His parents signed him up for Taekwondo when he was six, hoping the sport would help the quiet child become more confident.
“I was a very quiet and shy boy,” admitted the now 24-year-old Jason Tan.
“So my parents put me into a Taekwondo class at the RC, hoping that it will help to open me up more.”
After nearly two decades of Taekwondo, the sport has done much more than boost his self-esteem. Tan will be the captain of the national team at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
This will be Tan’s fourth time competing in the SEA Games, having clinched bronze in 2009 and 2011.
“I’m definitely aiming for a medal and more than a bronze this time,” said Tan who has been with Acme Taekwondo since he first started the sport.
“Asian powerhouses in Taekwondo are in this region so it is very competitive, but I will take it as it comes and try my best.”
Tan currently trains two times daily six days of the week.
The Temasek Polytechnic retail and hospitality design graduate started sparring from the age of seven and joined the national team at 16 after displaying a lot of promise.
Tan consistently topped his category for 12 years from 1999 to 2011 in the National Taekwondo Championships.
Bouncing back from injury
His coach revealed that in 2011, Tan suffered a torn ACL and had to undergo surgery.
However, he battled the injury to come back to the sport, despite doctors not being optimistic.
Six months later, he was back on his feet and competed at the 2011 SEA Games where he lost during the semi-finals by one point and missed his shot at the gold medal bout.
Tan’s best achievement to date was at the Korea International Open in 2012 where he won gold in the Under-58 category.
His most recent podium finish was a bronze at the 12th Asean (ATF) Taekwondo Championships 2015 in March this year.
“Jason not only shows talent for the sport, he also displays strong character,” said Wong Liang Ming, the coach for the national Taekwondo team.
“We appointed him as the captain since he was 18, because he displayed a lot of leadership potential and responsibility.”
Wong went on to describe how put in extra hours on his own for training and took initiative to bring the team together.
Once, Tan even knocked on the hotel door of every teammate during an overseas competition to make sure they woke up on time, said Wong.
“Tan is definitely one of Singapore’s brightest hopes. He has shown so much drive and passion, and also maturity responsibility from a young age.
“Of course we want him to make it to the finals – there’s no one who deserves it more,” Wong said.