Abiane Saul’s journey to winning the Speaker’s National Youth Debating Championship

Abiane Saul during her presentation

Having an uncertain mindset is often seen as a barrier to achieving goals, but for 20-year-old Abiane Saul, a final-year medical rehabilitation student at the University of Guyana (UG), uncertainty became the first step toward triumph.

During an interview with Guyana Times, Saul recalled that her initial steps toward the competition were on unstable grounds, yet, despite her hesitations, she and her team copped the Speaker’s National Youth Debating Championships.

“A friend reached out to me and said he was starting a debating team for the competition…the group was already there, but he needed a team to participate, and asked if I would be interested,” she detailed.

Without any formal training, the newly-formed team embarked on preparation for the debate, while Saul remained uncertain about her progress. “After we got the three members for the team, we did a mini rehearsal…we just got familiar with each other and decided who would be first speaker, second speaker, and third,” she disclosed.

Their preparation involved extensive group practice, rather than structured training. “We did a lot of practising as a group. We would all do our research, come up with our points, and discuss them together. We prepared our speeches, and each had mentors who gave us advice,” she disclosed.

Facing the competition

As the competition commenced, Saul admitted to constantly feeling unsure of what the team’s fate would be. “At first I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, especially with the first debate. We won by default because the other team couldn’t show up for the second round,” she recounted.

Their actual first debate came in the second round, which was a nerve-wracking experience. “At the end of that debate, one of the judges encouraged us, and from there we knew we could win, and decided to work even harder,” Saul disclosed.

She said encouragement from that judge resonated deeply within the team, sustaining them with audacity throughout the competition, and motivating them with renewed determination.

Overcoming challenges and nerves

Competing was not without its challenges. The young debater admits to struggling with anxiety throughout the competition. “For me personally, I’m a very anxious person, so I was pretty nervous for most of the competition,” she shared.

Time management was another significant hurdle, especially with university assignments and exams coinciding with the debates. “I had to work around these issues,” she explained.

A key moment of growth came when Saul was advised to be more assertive during rebuttals. “I’m a very soft-spoken person, so I was told to be a bit more assertive and aggressive, especially when delivering my speeches,” she disclosed. On this note, Saul recalled that in the finals, her team, the opposition Helpful Hands, faced off against the proposition, Child Rights Ambassadors, which was quite a battle in itself.

Reflecting on this challenge, she recalled, “The debate was extremely challenging. The Child Rights Ambassadors were really good. When their first speaker came on, all three of us were listening and couldn’t think of anything to respond at that moment.”

However, despite the initial uncertainty, Saul and her team managed to pull through, leveraging their preparation and teamwork to secure the victory.

Inspiration and Future Aspirations

Saul’s advice to aspiring debaters is straightforward and encouraging. “I would tell them to do it. There’s nothing wrong with trying, and you never know how much potential you have until you do something.”

She emphasizes that starting is the most crucial step. “Just start! When you start, that’s when you’ll make progress and corrections. You may lose some, but you may also win some; and you never know until you actually do it.”

As she looks ahead, Saul remains focused on her studies while acknowledging the confidence she has gained from this experience. “I’m currently in my final year of university, so that’s my main priority right now. But I’m more confident in my ability to pursue whatever goals or milestones I set out for myself,” she has said.

In a narrow victory, the opposition team Helpful Hands Youth Group triumphed over the proposing team Child Rights Ambassadors in the final of the Speaker’s National Youth Debating Competition on June 13, 2024.

Led to victory by the outstanding efforts of Best Speaker Nygil Drepaul, the team engaged in a significant battle against skilled debaters with limited speaking time.

Republished from the Guyana Times