Grandfather's fight against cancer inspired S'porean indoor skydiver

Alvin Chia
The Straits Times
Monday, Feb 6, 2017

If Kyra Poh had wings, her grandfather would be the proverbial wind beneath them.

For Sunny Teo, 70, was an inspiration to his granddaughter each time she stepped into the wind tunnel to perform her indoor skydiving routines at the Windoor Wind Games in Spain.

Although he had been expected to join her and his flight tickets had been booked, Teo could not make the trip to Girona in Spain because he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer just a few weeks earlier on Jan 13.

Instead, he followed the teenager's performances on the Internet.

Kyra, 14, a third-year School of the Arts student, said: "I thought about him before I went into the tunnel. He's also fighting (against cancer), which is such a tough thing to do, and he doesn't even think there's anything wrong with him.

"I just wanted to fly for him and make him proud, because he really wanted me to go on to compete and to see me do my best."

Indeed, Kyra made Teo proud when she bagged two golds and a silver at the Feb 3-4 competition. The annual meet, now into its fourth edition, featured almost 200 fliers from over 18 countries competing across eight categories.

In the solo freestyle event which featured 10 competitors, Kyra scored 361.217 points after three rounds, finishing ahead of Czech Jakub Harrer (349.033) and Maja Kuczynska of Poland (340.751).

Competing in the new solo speed event for the first time, Kyra clocked a total of 237.620sec over eight rounds to beat 10 other competitors. Cesar Rico of Spain (243.547) was second while Jamie Arnold of Britain (257.164) was third.

She added a silver to her tally when she teamed up with Britons Joshua O'Donoghue and Luke Warren and American Ben Roane in the four-way speed event.

Right after Kyra's competition ended at about 4am Singapore time yesterday, she spoke to Teo through FaceTime. Kyra said: "He told me that it was worth the two sleepless nights."

In a WhatsApp message, Teo told ST: "I was disappointed that I could not be there but what could I do? My life was hanging by a thread.

"But the excitement Kyra produced during the competition kept me awake throughout the night, and just to see Kyra exceed my expectations made me really pleased."

Kyra's graceful and smooth display of twists and flips look effortless. But she had to overcome a lot of challenges.

She revealed that it was painful to stretch until she could perform a leg split, a move she mastered only last June: "I'm not a naturally flexible person. I had to do a lot of stretching exercises, which were painful."

During the competition, she also had to cope with the short transition times while juggling appearances in the three categories.

Kyra said: "In speed competition, it's not about how you look but how fast you go.

"But in freestyle, I've got to calm down quickly and be more graceful with the music.

"And then in the four-way event, I had to be careful because the 14-foot tunnel can get squeezy and one wrong move would make us smash into each other. So it's exciting but quite hectic."

As a fitting reward for the high-flier, Kyra went skydiving yesterday.

Before her latest success, she also won a gold medal at the indoor skydiving World Cup last October.

Last August, she had won the Australian Championship Freestyle Open title.

But medals are secondary to Kyra's family.

Her mother Carolyn said: "For us, it's not so much about whether she is a brilliant flier or not, but that she's a nice girl and when people look at her, they are inspired. That's more important."

The Straits Times

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.