From ballerina to basketballer, Tan Kang Yi proves women can do it all!
From ballerina to basketballer, Tan Kang Yi proves women can do it all!
Happy International Women’s Day!
The month of March is about celebrating the amazing women who inspire us to do better, go further, and to constantly push and improve ourselves. Team Singapore basketballer Tan Kang Yi embodies this - student-athlete and aspiring professional basketballer who is proving to be an inspiration to young women that you can do anything you set your heart out to do!
Tan Kang Yi proudly holds her trophy from the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic Games, where she took part as the Team Captain of her squad! Credit: Jumpshot Singapore
Kang Yi is currently a student-athlete at Nanyang Technological University. While studying sports science, she’s also dominating on the basketball court as power forward and centre for her school during the competitive seasons. As a member of the Jumpshot Women’s Basketball Team, Kang Yi also competes in both 3x3 and 5v5 tournaments such as the International FIBA 3x3 and the National Women's Basketball League.
This year, Kang Yi will be representing Singapore at the upcoming FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup, which is happening from 29 March to 2 April.
But she had not always wanted to be a basketball player - in fact, her journey started far from the court.
As a child, Kang Yi first practised ballet.
However, when she picked up basketball as a co-curricular activity (CCA) in Primary 3, Kang Yi simply fell in love with the sport.
She continued pursuing both her passions. But her sporting journey began in earnest when she quit ballet and focused all her time and energy on basketball.
Kang Yi recalls: “Ballet and basketball have vastly contrasting demands; ballet demands poise, control and elegance while basketball demands power, speed and agility.”
Although the two disciplines are so different, Kang Yi was undeterred. “Participating in both sports at the same time seemed humorous, but it was what I did!”
“What was transferable between the two was the need to put in the hard work through constant practice to excel,” she added. “However, the only difference that separated the two was my passion for basketball. Once I started playing, I could never bring myself to stop. When I stopped ballet, I never looked back!”
Despite the trappings of conventional success, Kang Yi's journey was far from easy
And once she picked up basketball, she quickly drew attention from top players for her advanced skill set.
Yet, Kang Yi recalls how, early on, she struggled to lift her team to exceed their collective talents.
As a growing teen, her challenges were compounded by sharp joint pains as she underwent some difficult growth spurts. Since then, however, Kang Yi has reached an impressive height of 177cm!
Even as she progressed into her C Division days at Jurong Secondary School, her journey started with heartbreak as her team could only finish as 2nd runner-up in the National School Games, despite dominating the West Zone. Off the court, she faced insecurities and identity issues, feeling unable to fit in socially and lead her teammates as team captain.
But through it all, Kang Yi never gave up. The time apart only served to rekindle her love for the game, and she trained and worked harder than before. Since then, basketball enthusiasts have noticed that Kang Yi has added a sweet perimetre stroke to her already-advanced footwork in the post and her deft finishing touch - making her a nightmare on the blocks for any opposing bigs!
Kang Yi (clothed in the white-and-red jersey) shoots for the stars. Credit: Jumpshot Singapore
All her hard work paid off in her sophomore season, as Jurong Secondary School took home the grand prize as the C Division National Champion in the National School Games, with Kang Yi at the helm as team captain. In her final year of secondary school, she played an instrumental role in securing another National Champion title in the B Division, earning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award for her contributions.
After her impressive performances, she was called up to the National Under-18 squad and represented her country with pride at the 2018 FIBA U18 Women’s Asian Championship in Bangalore, India. She also played for Raffles Institution (RI) in her tertiary debut, where her team finished as 1st runner-up in the A Division, despite suffering from a serious knee ulcer that year that affected her mobility on the court.
However, it was not all bad. “In year 2 of Junior College, we won the A Division Championships and I was awarded my second MVP Award!” Kang Yi recalls happily.
Training harder even amidst lockdowns
Her passion for basketball meant that, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kang Yi found new ways to adapt and overcome.
“We focused on training challenges in both our physical and mental states. When I felt tired physically and wanted to give up, I always refer to a vision that I am able to perform well on court, such as being able to outdo my opponent in all aspects,” Kang Yi says. “That vision of the type of player I want to be pushes me to carry on and train strong. With the guidance of my coach, we found ways to stand out from other players, and repeatedly trained the skills required!”
Indeed, the lockdowns could not stop her from pursuing her love of the game. In 2022. She joined the Jumpshot Women's Basketball 3x3 and 5v5 Teams.
Since then, she's been working towards representing the Singapore National Team and to be the first professional female player in Singapore!
Last year, Kang Yi had the chance to compete at the FIBA 3×3 Basketball Thai Super League in Ayutthaya, Thailand going up against regional powerhouses and holding her own. She was also a national representative at the 2022 ASEAN University Games in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, where she honed her skills with the aim of representing the Singapore Women’s National Team in the 2023 SEA Games, and recently at the Manila Hustle 3x3 in the Philippines.
Looking towards the future
Currently, Kang Yi trains with the National Women's 3x3 Training Squad.
Through these experiences, Kang Yi has emerged as a tougher competitor and person. As one of the top prospects in the local hoop scene, she is not willing to settle for following the usual ‘star trajectory’ in her playing days ahead.
Instead, she has set herself the lofty goal of becoming the first female professional basketball player in Singapore, despite the lack of a professional local league.
“I dream to become a professional player and become an imported player to the Philippines and hopefully in Asia and Europe to play in their 3x3 and 5v5 tournaments,” Kang Yi shares excitedly. “I also wish to have the honour of continuing to represent Singapore in both 3x3 and 5v5 competitions in the future.”
And if possible, represent Singapore in the 3x3 Olympics in 2028!”
In love with her sport, Kang Yi hopes to present Singapore in future competitions! Credit: Jumpshot Singapore
To achieve her dream, Kang Yi has been actively seeking out opportunities to play overseas and gain exposure to different playing styles. She has attended basketball camps in the Philippines and Hong Kong, where she trained with experienced coaches - including a former Philippine National Coach and NBA G league player! Additionally, she has competed in international tournaments in Thailand and Philippines, where she faced off against some of the best players in the region.
In 2023, Kang Yi’s plan is to head to Europe and the United States for more training in order to get even better!
Kang Yi warming up before a game. Credit: Jumpshot Singapore
Despite facing challenges such as limited programmes that support female athletes to pursue basketball professionally, Kang Yi remains undeterred. She continues to work hard and push herself to be the best player she can be, both on and off the court. Her dedication and passion for the game have not gone unnoticed, and she has become an inspiration to many young girls who aspire to play basketball at a high level.
As Kang Yi continues on her journey to become Singapore's first professional female basketball player, she hopes to inspire more women to take up the sport and break down gender barriers in sports.
In fighting gender biases and bringing attention to issues such as gender equality and equity, Kang Yi’s basketball journey should be celebrated - just like International Women's Day!
She believes that with hard work, perseverance, and a strong support system, anything is possible. And we couldn't agree more!
Catch Kang Yi in action at the highly anticipated FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2023. The competition returns for its sixth edition this year and will take place at the Singapore Sports Hub OCBC Square from 29 March to 2 April 2023.
More information on the event and competition schedule can be found here. You can purchase the tickets here!