Singapore’s “Mighty” May Ooi’s status as a star of multiple sports means she is an inspiration to aspiring athletes.
Very few athletes possess the drive, determination and staying power to achieve international success in a single sport, but the 42-year-old is one of that rare breed.
Ooi is forging a career in mixed martial arts after representing Singapore as a swimmer at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. She also represented her country at the 2018 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, where she competed in jiu-jitsu.
On top of all her competitive pursuits, she manages a capoeira studio, where she teaches students of all ages the graceful Brazilian martial art. Ooi has also branched out to visit a local school in a deprived area of Singapore to speak to the students about her career.
The ONE roster is full of athletes who have harnessed martial arts to escape tricky, and sometimes dangerous, situations, and go on have a successful career. The strawweight submission specialist felt empowered to pass on that positive message and influence those youngsters.
“I am constantly studying and trying to figure out how to help them or who I can direct them to for assistance, so it came naturally to me when I was giving a talk to the kids,” she reveals.
“I wanted them to know that there are many ways you can be successful, and the important thing is to break through your mental barriers, strive for more, and be the best you can be.”
Despite going into the school to inspire the youngsters she met, Ooi found herself walking away at the end of the day feeling empowered herself.
“Kids have an innocence and authenticity that keeps me grounded,” she says.
“As a sportsperson and public figure, I think that is important – especially if I am going to be leading others.”
In addition to visiting schools, Ooi also gives motivational talks to large businesses and organizations, and the former Olympian remembers one notable evening when she spoke at the South East Asian Women and Sports Seminar on “Overcoming Obstacles” in Yangon, Myanmar in November.
“I was privileged enough to be able to go behind the scenes and witness things at a grassroots level,” she explains.
“It was eye-opening. They are doing all the right things, and if in 10 years’ time they dominate Southeast Asian sports, I will not be the least bit surprised.”
Ooi has her own plans to dominate in ONE. She has made a superb start to her career inside the world’s largest martial arts organization, with two wins already under her belt.
Now Ooi says she is determined to continue learning and improving as she competes in mixed martial arts to help inspire and empower youngsters to achieve their own dreams, just as she is achieving hers.
“I practice mixed martial arts because I want to inspire others,” she says.
“It has given me a platform to prove to people that barriers like age or gender are just perceptions.
“If we work hard and continually challenge ourselves, we can break past these limitations.