My best competition experience (SNAG)

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It was my very first SNAG with the Swimfast Aquatic Club (SAC) and many thoughts went through my head before the competition.

It takes a coach many years to know a swimmers strengths and weaknesses, but I only started training with them for 3 months, so am I really going to do well?

It’s been 4 years since I had a personal best, have I reached my limit in this sport?

I’ve been sick twice in January thus training has been affected, that made me worried as well.

Thankfully for me, I’ve managed to perform despite all these negative thoughts, and here’s why:

Getting in the Zone

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The most important thing for a swimmer to do well is to get in the zone. I had my Creative Aurvana Platinum headphones on to get in the zone before my 400IM and it had definitely helped me a lot. What amazed me most is that I felt like I was in my own world when I had this pair of headphones on. The active noise cancellation was excellent so I couldn’t hear what was going on outside. Therefore there wasn’t any trouble prepping up for my race as I could block out all distractions from my surroundings.

This is by far the best headphones I’ve ever worn, plus they’re wireless! So I wouldn’t have to worry about messing up any wires. Thank you Creative!

A run through of my race

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Before my race I saw one of my teammates Hyogo Kei doing well in his 1500m Freestyle. Kei is one of the best training partners I’ve ever had and we’ve been training really well together. Thus seeing him do well in the 1500m really gave me that extra confidence to do well in my race.

Support from teammates

Standing on the blocks I knew I was well prepared, I’ve been training really hard for the months leading up to this with the greatest teammates I could ask for so I was confident of doing a good time. As I looked at the stands I saw Hyogo Kei (who just ended his race), Zheng Wen, Mattias, Darren, Russell, Michael Yong, Tzen Wei and a few of my other teammates cheering me on, that motivated me to do a lot better as it didn’t feel like an individual effort, it felt as though I was doing it for a team.

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I still remember after Kei’s 1500m Freestyle Zheng said proudly, “OMG you have no idea how happy I am for Kei, it’s like as though I won the race myself!” This really touched me as even though swimming is such an individual sport, we still compete as a team and are still happy for each others successes.

This is Zheng Wen and Hyogo Kei cheering me on before my 400IM. It was really an eye opener and I’m really thankful for such supportive teammates.

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As I dived in the pool my goal was clear, to hit the Asian Games qualifying time of 4:30.31 for my race.

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I felt really light on the Butterfly that day which was a big plus point as that gave me more energy to go faster for the other 3 strokes.

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As I swam the Backstroke I saw the score board: 1:34, that was when I thought to myself, “Yes, I got this race in the bag.”

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I felt really confident going in to the Breastroke as I saw my time on the scoreboard during the backstroke.

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Finally, the final lap for the Freestyle, I gave an extra look at the scoreboard coming into the last lap of the Freestyle just to be sure that I was on par with the qualifying time. I saw 4:00; I couldn’t be slower than 30 seconds for the last 50m of the race. And so I went on to swim my heart out for the last 50m of the race.

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When I touched the wall I saw: 4:29.64. A big sigh of relief that I went under the qualifying mark.

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Words can’t describe how happy I was after that race. It’s been a long time since I’ve smiled so much after the race. Feels good to be back in shape.

Having a World Class Coach

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Like I said it takes many years for a coach to fully understand a swimmer, but being with us on many of our overseas competitions like the Asian Youth Games and SEA Games, Coach Gary is really familiar with the national team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Coach Gary knew exactly my weakness was that I wasn’t a confident person in general, so right before every race he would motivate me.

“Sheng Jun, you are at your peak now, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

“Don’t be afraid to take the race out hard, you’ve been training hard, believe in yourself.”

“Sheng Jun, remember: Don’t hold back.”

Encouraging words like these really motivated me to do well and it really gave me the extra confidence I needed during the race. I believed that this was the key reason to be being able to achieve not one, but 2 of my personal best in 4 years.

One of the best feelings for a swimmer is to achieve their personal best in a race, and achieving 2 personal best times in this meet really motivated me to train even harder as I know that my hard work will always pay off.

From these races I’ve learnt that that it’s not always about how your body feels, as long as you have a strong mindset, your mind can do what the body can’t.  

Coach Gary is one of the most professional coaches I’ve ever trained under, and I feel really privileged. Thank you Coach Gary.

Overall experience

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My overall experience of SNAG with SAC was definitely the best one I’ve had so far. It’s really an eye opener seeing teammates and coaches working as a team and motivating and cheering on one another in every race.

And I’ve also learnt that in races, your mind is in control, so don’t let your body tell you otherwise! Be strong.

A shoutout to my teammates from left to right: Darren Lim, Kei Hyogo, Myself, Mattias Ng, Quah Zheng Wen and a few others who are not in this photo: Roanne, Joel, Russell and Michael for being the best teammates ever. I wouldn’t have done so well without the constant encouragement and training with you guys! Looking forward to more great meets to come.

It’s really a pity that Kei will be leaving Singapore in June to Yale university where a whole new swimming career awaits him. He’s definitely one of the best training partners I’ve ever had. Hope there’s a chance we could meet again.

Now that SNAG is over, it’s time for me to catch up on my those lessons that I’ve missed in school!

 

Special thanks to… 

Special thanks to sports and wedding photographer Adrian Seetho for beautifully capturing the experiences we had during SNAG. Looking back at my photos, he has definitely recreated what was going on at that very moment in my race and brought my racing experience to a whole new level.
You can view more of his excellent photography here: www.adrianseetho.com
Adrian will be aiming to be the official photographer the SEA Games 2015 in Singapore so let’s all wish him all the best!
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Hard Work Pays Off

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