Sonia Ong, Founder of Urbanski, Forms the Rollersports Vision 2030 Initiative
It’s a warm day out at the skatepark down on Somerset, as Sonia Ong gathers with a group of skaters for our photo shoot. Even with the afternoon sun beating down on her and the team, Sonia’s infectious positivity still somehow manages to shine brighter. “I’m excited to share something different with you,” she says. “I even brought my hot pink skateboard too!”
Sonia has certainly earned a reputation for championing the different. In September 2019, she founded Urbanski, a training and travel company designed to bring rollerskiing to Asia. Rollerskiing, as its name implies—and as Urbanski’s website so succinctly puts it—is skiing on wheels.
“I discovered the sport on a trip to Norway, as an alternative to skiing,” she says. “Skiing was always popular amongst a group of my friends, family and acquaintances. I was always amused by the fact and thought rollerskiing might be interesting to ski enthusiasts. Rollerskiing is all very new in Southeast Asia, so this is where I am championing it—on Orchard Road at *Scape and with resort partners in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.”
Of course in retrospect, it seems almost inevitable that Sonia would end up associated with rollersports. “I grew up in the ‘90s when blading was at its peak,” she says. “As I got older, I would enjoy extreme sports on television and these continue to excite me to this day.”
Since founding Urbanski, and because of her connection to the sport, Sonia has joined the Singapore Rollersports Federation as Director of Rollerski. “It just happened very organically,” she says. “But then I learned so much when I joined—that skateboarding is now an Olympic sport, that we have so many different types of rollersports, and that we have so much talent.”
She adds, “The recognition of skateboarding as an Olympic sport resonated so strongly with me. I saw great potential in all the other rollersports becoming Olympic events eventually, and Singaporeans having a realistic chance at taking the podium.” It’s that chance that drove Sonia to initiate Rollersports Vision 2030, a project designed to “inspire, educate and direct future rollersports donors and athletes in Singapore.”
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The initiative began in April 2020 and, despite the effects of the global pandemic, continues to move forward. While some projects such as camps conducted by international rollerstars had been delayed, the relaxing of restrictions on venues meant that Sonia still managed to squeeze in the Rollersports Grand National Championships this month.
Competitions for Aggressive Inline and Freestyle Scooter will be taking place (albeit through a livestream) on December 26 and 27 respectively. “There’s such a supportive community of rollersport enthusiasts around the world who will be tuning in with us remotely,” Sonia says.
That support’s a far cry from the way rollersports were viewed back when she was growing up though. “If rollersports have ever had a bad reputation,” she says, “it was only because people associated them with poverty, rough streets, rebels, anarchy, graffiti, vandalism and counterculture.”
People associated [rollersports] with poverty, rough streets, rebels, anarchy, graffiti, vandalism and counterculture. When I see our rollersports athletes around the world, I see amazing flexibility, agility and dexterity.
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Sonia, however, doesn’t plan to just counter those stereotypes—she wants to shatter them. “When I see our rollersports athletes around the world, I see amazing flexibility, agility and dexterity,” she says. “It’s a potent and heady combination—a bit of gymnastics, a bit of ice-skating and a bit of F1. Why did the Olympics take forever to recognise them?”
Despite the fact that rollersports are only now getting the respect they deserve, Sonia remains positive. Skating into frame on her hot pink skateboard, she smiles and says, “I have high hopes for rollersports in Singapore and the world. There is more to come.”
The Rollersports Grand National Competition will be live-streamed from Somerset Skatepark on December 26 and 27 on their Facebook page.
- Photography Benny Loh
- Styling Lena Kamarudin
- Stylist's Assistant Sean Tham
- Hair Junz Loke
- Make-Up Lolent Lee