May 10, 2023
SINGAPORE – On Monday morning, national triathlete Bryce Chong stood at Kep beach, heart pounding and palms sweaty.
It was not a race, however, that was making him jittery. Instead, the 26-year-old had another nerve-racking task to complete just hours after finishing his final SEA Games event – proposing to long-time girlfriend Sheryl Foo.
And there were happy tears, and cheers, for the couple as Foo said yes in front of his teammates and friends who had gathered to witness the momentous occasion.
Chong, who won Singapore’s first Games medal in Cambodia with a bronze in the men’s aquathlon on Saturday – he finished fifth in the triathlon on Monday – said the proposal was “tenfold” more stressful than competing in a race.
“Everyone was looking at me and already knew what was happening but, when the moment comes, you have to do everything prim and proper, you don’t want to make any mistakes,” he added.
“I thought of doing it at the medal ceremony venue, but I thought it would be too crowded.
“It was nice to do it at the triathlon’s start point along the beach because it signifies the start to another phase in both our lives.”
Having bought the wedding ring in mid-2022, Chong was unable to find a suitable moment to pop the question, until a friend suggested he propose during the Games.
He pulled off the surprise with the help of his teammates, such as women’s triathlon bronze medallist Louisa Middleditch, who gathered the team to witness and capture photographs and videos of the proposal.
Foo, 26, said she was caught off-guard when Chong got down on one knee.
The interior designer said: “My mental state was recovering because I was very nervous throughout the day because of his race.
“They wanted to take a group photo by the beach and I thought we would return to the hotel to rest after that.
“After recovering from the shock, I’m just very happy about how it went, it was a special moment.”
The timing was “just right” as it was the first time she had travelled abroad to support Chong in a race, and his bronze medal made the experience sweeter, said Foo.
She was unable to attend his Games debut in 2019 due to work commitments.
The couple first met at a triathlon training camp in 2016. Chong’s coach from the Singapore Sports School had also taught Foo, who was a member of the triathlon co-curricular activity in Temasek Polytechnic.
The initial stages of their relationship was tough, said Foo, as communication and compromise were required from both parties, owing to Chong’s busy training schedule and frequent trips abroad for competitions.
But after seven years, Foo continues to support him at races and encourages him when he faces challenges during training sessions.
Chong said: “It’s a bit hard to understand an athlete’s perspective since she doesn’t do the sport as competitively as me.
“But she takes the time to understand me and make sure I’m in the right state of mind going into races.
“She does many little things which makes my sporting life a lot easier.”
The couple returned to Singapore on Tuesday but are not rushing ahead with wedding plans.
Chong plans to take a break from competing to recover while focusing on his career as a sports massage therapist.
Whatever his future plans are, Chong can count on having his fiancee by his side.