The love story for national shuttlers Derek Wong and Vanessa Neo began with a simple question but sincere, "Will you be my girlfriend?”
Since the age of 12, they were brought together by their love for Badminton and it was only after a trip to Thailand with a group of friends that they realised they had chemistry with each other.
Derek, upon realising his feelings for Vanessa, decided to arrange a romantic dinner at the Meritus Mandarin in pursuit of his princess. During the dinner, he casually asked Vanessa if they "could get together" but was met with rejection. Vanessa needed him to be more sincere.
He took a moment to gather his thoughts and finally ask, in a natural but sincere manner, "Vanessa, will you be my girlfriend?" They only got together one month later when Vanessa was finally convinced of his sincerity.
Seven years into their relationship, SportSanity had the opportunity to speak to the pair on what keeps their relationship strong.
The couple attributes their strong relationship to the fact that they see each other everyday and know exactly what each of them are going through.
Vanessa says, "It is great to have a boyfriend in the same sport as he knows what I am going through and we can see each other everyday. There is no need to re-arrange my schedule to suit his time or vice-versa."
“We train together almost every day and have travelled on numerous trips but we never had a quarrel before,” adds Vanessa.
Derek agrees, "Our training is very tiring both physically and mentally, if I am dating someone from another industry, she may not understand what I am going through and petty quarrels may occur because of this."
Despite the occasional conflicting schedules due to different competitions both of them participate in, the couple provides morale support by being there for each other “virtually”.
“With whatsapp, skype and other smartphone applications, we are able to stay in touch when we are apart,” explains Vanessa.
“In fact, we follow each other’s live results through the official tournament websites and cheer each other on in our hearts. If he is playing in a big event like the Olympics, I will usually wake up and watch his game live,” she adds.
For competitions that the couple travels together, they usually just provide support by cheering or being there for each other and will not discuss anything about the game.
In Derek’s own words, “After a game, win or lose, we usually discuss with our respective coaches and leave the venue. When Vanessa and I meet up, it is usually with our teammates to cheer on the others or head out for dinner. The last thing we do is to tell each other what went wrong.”
“Despite being a couple, we know that we are representing Singapore and that is our priority for every competition but we know how much hard work each other has put in prior to any match and the desire to win that’s why we usually encourage each other and look forward to the future,” adds Vanessa.
So is marriage on the cards?
Derek, who is currently ranked 45 in the Men’s Singles has represented Singapore in the 2012 London Olympic Games and affirms, with the support of Vanessa, that “qualifying for the Olympic Games in Brazil” is his priority.
In fact, the couple made a promise to qualify for the Olympic Games together and marriage can come after that.
In a bid to climb up the rankings, the couple is working hard to make an impression in Singapore’s marquee event, the up-coming OUE Singapore Open 2014.
The event, classified as a SuperSeries, will see the world’s top badminton players competing for the US$300,000 prize money at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from 8 April 2014 to 13 April 2014.
SportSanity believes the couple will do Singapore proud in the 2016 Olympic Games and wishes the couple the best of luck!