Ranked number 1 from 2002 to 2006, Nicholas FANG, one of Singapore's top national fencers, has won accolades in national championships including the 2004 Fencing Singapore Challenge. This four-time National Individual Champion (1997, 2001 - 2004) has also represented the Lion City in numerous regional and international competitions, such as the recent 2007 SEA Games held in Thailand.
His diverse talents include writing and being linguistically adept. Fluent in the French language, he was appointed as the Master of Ceremony for the 117th IOC 2012 Session Opening Ceremony and Announcement Ceremony which had all taken place in Singapore in 2005.
Currently a financial correspondent for Singapore's largest newspaper, The Straits Times, Nicholas reports on major financial trends and news. He had started his journalistic career covering numerous topics and had, in fact, been the proud recipient of the much coveted Straits Times Journalistic Awards for Excellence in 1995 for one of his stories, titled "New Age Dawning in Singapore".
FULL NAME: Nicholas Fang
PLACE OF BIRTH: Singapore
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Singapore
EDUCATION: MA (Oxon), St Hugh's College, Oxford
What made you pick up Fencing?
Like most boys, I was enthralled by the idea of sword-fighting at an early age, thanks to books and movies about Zorro and the Three Musketeers. So when I went to Junior College and realised they offered the sport as one of the extra-curricular activities, I jumped at the chance to pick it up. But soon after I started, I realised that the sport was not easy. In fact, it is its challenging nature that actually draws me to it till today. It requires physical attributes such as strength, stamina, agility and speed, combined with mental characteristics such as fast reflexes, cunning and fast-thinking. These then have to be paired of with technical excellence and skills acquired through hundreds of hours of training and practice. To top it all of, you need a natural aggression and confidence to face up to another man who's objective is also to attack you with a sword. But it is a great sport with lots to offer athletes of all ages.
You graduated with honours at Oxford, how easy (or difficult) was that for you?
The actual academic work was challenging to say the least when I was at university, but I also believed in leading a balanced life and chose to make the most of my time by participating in a range of sports, including the traditional rowing, as well as triathlon, swimming, running, cycling, fencing and modern pentathlon, which is a combination of shooting, fencing, swimming, running and horse-riding (show-jumping). As such, this involved training up to 5 times a day sometimes. Balancing that with a full schedule of lectures and tutorials definitely required superior time-management skills and most of the time sleep was the first thing to be sacrificed. But I enjoyed myself thoroughly, made great friends and would definitely do it all over again!
What principles did you value as a student that has translated well in your professional athletic endeavors and at work?
As I mentioned, time management is the key to success in most areas of life I feel. Be it work, school or sports, it's all about achieving the right balance that allows you to optimise your time and effort to get the most out of everything you do. I always believed in trying to get as much out of life, and most of the time, that means making full use of every minute! Even if it's just taking some time out to recharge and refocus your energies.
Did you always want to be a Journalist or was it something that fell into your lap?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a vet, a lawyer or a journalist. I didn't feel that being a vet in Singapore would be as interesting due to the limited market and possibilities. Overseas, for example, many trained vets are able to enjoy diversification, in that they may even tend to farm animals! Being a lawyer seemed like too much work and so, journalism it was! Besides, I love writing and I enjoy meeting and talking to different people. Journalism allows me to do all that and makes every day seem like a new experience, virtually. The flexible hours can be unpredictable at times but it adds a bit of spice to life!
How does it feel not being in a stereotypically 9 to 5 desk-bound job in a workaholic country like Singapore?
I think it's fantastic. Too many of us are caught up in the rat race, chasing the almighty dollar and trying to climb the corporate ladder faster and higher than others around us. That can't be all there is to life. I have seen many friends and people that I know succumb to the pressures and stress of corporate life and I truly believe that that is not how I want to end up. So a slightly unconventional life, which may not pay as well as other more hectic professions, but which allows me to watch the world at a slightly slower pace, is perfectly fine with me.
Can you share with us your other passions in life?
I love reading, especially non-fiction books and biographies about athletes and other people who have experienced different aspects of life. I believe that life is the great teacher and we all have so much to learn from the world around us. In order to get as much out of life, aside from living full lives, I think we can all learn from those who have gone before us, and who have done things we are unlikely to get the chance to. I have stacks of books all over my room and enjoy nothing more than curling up with a good book!
Can we expect a book authored by Nicholas Fang sometime soon?
It's definitely something that I have on my "to-do" list. It's just that I don't think I have done something that is book-worthy at the moment. Maybe in another 20 years. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas for fictional works, or even non-fiction, please let me know!
What would you recommend someone to do in Singapore?
I would say that the key thing is to take the advantage of the amazing range of foods that can be sampled in Singapore to get a feel for the cuisine and culture of Asia. Being the cultural melting pot that it is, Singapore offers a fantastic diverse menu of foods and drink from all over the region, be it from India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and any number of other Asian countries. So please come and eat, drink, and most definitely be merry!