I challenged a 7-year-old S'porean Pokémon Champion to battle & was mercilessly thrashed

Eight months into the world of competitive Pokémon, Simone has been crowned the champion of Oceania.

Julia Yeo| March 01, 2020, 03:35 PM

My Conkeldurr and Jellicent were facing off against her Tyranitar and Butterfree.

Using Conkeldurr's Rock Slide, I thought I could gain the type advantage there, but she took control of the game with Butterfree's Sleep Powder, sending my Conkeldurr to sleep.

Taking out Jellicent with Tyranitar's Rockfall combined with Dynamax, the rest of my party soon fell one by one, and with that my dreams of Pokémon mastery dissipated in front of my very eyes.

Put to an end by a 7-year-old who had just started on Pokémon less than a year ago.

I have never felt more like a Bug Catcher.

Last Sunday (Feb. 23), Pokémon fans all over the world greeted the new Oceania Pokémon Junior Champion, seven-year-old Simone Lim.

She's become a fan favourite almost instantaneously.

There are even fanarts of Simone.

Here she is hugging her brother Alvin, who is also an extraordinary Pokemon trainer, after her win.

Photo via ESLAustralia/Twitter

She defeated reigning Oceania champion Justin Miranda-Radbord in an exhilarating finals match at the Melbourne tournament, qualifying for the World Pokémon Championships in the process.

Sitting down at Poke Bar with Mothership a week after the tournament, Simone, who takes part in the Video Game Championships (VGC), and her 10-year-old brother Alvin, who takes part in the Trading Card Game (TCG) at tournaments, take us through their journey to be the very best.

Water and fire

Clutching her Eevee tightly and hopping around like a Scorbunny, Simone greets familiar faces around the Poke Bar, a cafe near Clarke Quay that doubles as a spot for Pokémon players to gather and battle each other in card tournaments.

While talking to us, her shy demeanour quickly peels away to showcase an incredibly bubbly personality.

Here's a short clip of her repeatedly saying hi in the middle of the interview, and giggling as we interviewed her coach:

Alvin, on the other hand, is much more reserved, maintaining a composure that belies his young age. But he did open up once we got a bit further into his favourite game.

These seemingly different personalities manifest in their Pokemon choices as well.

Simone likes fire-type Pokémon type, such as Scorbunny (Eevee is an exception to that fire bias), while Alvin prefers water-type Pokémons, such as Oshawott.

Scorbunny (left) and Oshawott (right). Photo via Pokemon Website

Entering the world of competitive Pokémon

The two siblings may be only primary school kids, but it'd be a mistake to underestimate both of them.

Alvin, even at his young age, is an accomplished competitive player.

He has been participating in tournaments since 2017 and attended his first major tournament in early 2018, coincidentally also at the Oceania International Championships, in the TCG segment.

From that point, he never looked back. He went on to a number of countries to participate in tournaments including the international championships in Brazil, and qualified for the World Championships in 2018 and 2019, both held in the United States.

He has bagged a number of regional accolades, coming in first place at the Singapore TCG Open Special Event, and was also crowned champion at the TCG Regional Championships in Malaysia in 2019.

Simone, even though she just participated in and won her first major tournament, has just started on her professional Pokémon journey.

Photo via Julia Yeo

Her coach, Melvin Keh, who she affectionately calls "Melvin korkor" (brother in dialect), tells us that he was only approached by Simone's father eight months ago, when they decided to let her enter the world of competitive Pokémon.

Keh, who is himself a competitive VGC player, teaches her basic strategies and helps to plan her tournament teams. A good thing too, if not she would probably pick 5 Eevees and perhaps a stray Scorbunny here and there.

Due to their strong performance at tournaments, both Simone and Alvin have received several travel awards from The Pokémon Company International (TPCI), which sponsors top players in different categories to participate in major international championships held in Oceania, South America, Europe, and North America, and the elusive World Championships.

The Oceania International Championships was one of the major competitions where top players could qualify for travel awards.

In April, the two of them will travel to Germany to participate in the Europe International Championships held in Berlin.

Which begs the question, how did these two kids first get on the Pokémon trail?

Wanted to teach children about financial literacy

With three children playing Pokémon competitively, one would've assumed that their parents must be Pokémon fans themselves.

However, neither of them ever picked up the game themselves.

Their father, Lim, wanted to find a way to teach his children about financial literacy and economics from a young age, to educate them about real-world skills.

That was when he chanced upon trading card games, where he thought could be used to teach his children through play.

"Trading card games, such as Magic The Gathering, have cards that are important and informative depending on how valuable or rare they are. I bought Bushiroad's Buddyfight and Pokémon at the time," Lim says.

Out of the three siblings, Alvin showed the most interest in Pokémon in the early days.

They recall the first major tournament in Sydney which Alvin was invited to, and were utterly shocked at how huge the event was.

"In Singapore, the events are very small, and there are hardly any children. We were shocked to see how many children there were at the tournament," Lim's wife said.

They also shared how the Pokémon journey has helped teach their children several values and shaped their character, similar to the athleticism found in sportsmen.

The setbacks and losses they have experienced in tournaments have helped the three siblings grow stronger and become better at handling disappointments, they added.

Recognising there are many roads to success

Besides being a great learning experience for their children, Lim and his wife shares that the journey has taught them several parenting skills as well, which they picked up from meeting other parents during tournaments.

As overseas tournaments often coincide with the school term, they would often have to request for time off from school for their kids to participate in international competitions.

While that sounds like a child's dream, Lim and his wife still place some emphasis on their children's education.

And to their credit, the kids are personally responsible for their academic performance.

For example, Alvin, who is in Primary Five, will request for work from his teacher beforehand, completing it before he leaves for tournaments.

And while engaging in Pokémon battles might not be considered a traditional co-curricular activity for children in Singapore, the Lims adopt a very Pokémon-ish mindset towards it.

"We need to recognise that there are many roads to success, and it's very important that our children understand that as well," Lim says.

"But the message we want them to take away is that whatever they do, they must endeavour to be the best they can be, whichever field that they want to go."

Why do they want to be the very best?

Regardless of the many good intentions of coaches or parents, it is ultimately the children themselves who must make the decision to start on a path.

Besides wanting to excel in their game, a good motivation for them to keep playing were the friends and rivals they made along the way, from all over the world.

While their friends from school don't necessarily share their level of passion for Pokémon, they met like-minded children on the international circuit.

Here they are cheering Simone on in her recent victory.

Simone Lim's friends cheering for her at the Oceania International Championship Finals Simone's friends cheering for her at the finals. Photo via The Pokemon Company International

So what about the newly crowned champion herself? What exactly pushed her to try these competitions out in the first place?

Was it to catch all the Pokemon or train them? Or become the very best, like no one ever was?

Not exactly. Her motivation was a bit simpler.

"The reason I started playing was because my brother kept travelling," Simone says, when asked about why she started playing. "I wanted to join him."

Awww.

And this year, both of them will participate together at the World Championships in London in August. Champs.

Top image via Julia Yeo