Everyone falls down at some point in their life… This was how I overcame my setback

Everyone falls down at some point in their life, including me. To be honest nobody knows about this except one of my greatest friends Russell and he promised not to say it. But it has been 3 years since it happened so I guess I don’t mind sharing it in case it helps someone!


This is my story: 

Back in 2011, do you believe that I was suicidal?

To be honest, I am a confident person with a positive outlook in life, everyone knows that. But what happened that year almost made me end my life. I just did not see a way out of it, I was depressed, stuck, and all alone, and the only way out for me was just to escape… life.

It all happened when I was still serving my National Service (NS). As a national swimmer, NS really slows down your training by quite a bit (many male athletes would know about this). Imagine training 5 hours a day to none when you enter Basic Military Training for 2 months (BMT), your fitness would drop for sure.

It was a really stressful year back in 2011 as it was a SEA Games year, which was also the year I entered NS.

I qualified for the SEA Games in March, followed by NS from May-July.

At that point of time I thought I had everything planned out – SEA Games was in November, so I would have 4 solid months to get back in shape after BMT.

A Comparison of Me during Army and Now 

Processed with Moldiv

But that was not what happened…

I was assigned to my new unit that included vocation training which took another 2 months. That means I would only have 2 months to train for SEA Games.

How was I ever going to make a comeback like that? It was practically impossible to get my fitness back in 2 months.

Fortunately, I had a stay out vocation when I was done with the necessary training in NS, but time was definitely not on my side, and I was already kinda depressed when all that happened.

But I just kept training my heart out whenever I had the opportunity and tried my best to get my fitness back as soon as possible. To be honest, it was not the best fitness I had going into the SEA Games, but that was already the best I could do, and I had to keep telling myself that I felt good and fit. Trust me, it wasn’t easy doing that.

I even had some issues right before going to the SEA Games. I initially was not allowed to go for SEA Games due to several reasons, and I only knew that I was going for the SEA Games 2 days before the actual day of leaving, which was really rush for me, but I’m glad I still managed to go.

“Sheng Jun, will you be able to bring home the Gold medal for Singapore?” My Institute Sergeant Major asked me right before I left for SEA Games.

“Yes Sir! I will bring the Gold medal back.” I said confidently, though I knew my fitness was not quite there yet.

“I will be watching you on TV! Don’t come back without a medal I tell you.” He said with a joking tone, but I took it seriously as I really wanted to prove my worth as a national swimmer.

I had so much pressure going into the SEA Games, knowing that my coach had also set high expectations of me, and my army waiting for the good news.

So with that much pressure, I left for the SEA Games… 



On the day of my event, I had a good morning swim in the heats, and I was pretty confident of winning a medal in the finals. My coach also knew I was ready to perform.

My parents were sitting at the spectators stand after the heats, I looked up to them and showed them a thumbs up sign, “I’m ready for finals, watch me.” I gestured.

So after the morning swim I went back to the games village to rest up for finals. That was when everything fell apart for me. I just could not fall asleep that day, so many thoughts ran through my head:

“What if I don’t win the race?”

“My parents would want to see me win for sure.”

“The people in my camp are definitely watching as well.”

“2 months of solid training, it all comes down to this.” 

“I need to rest right now.”

“I need to calm down right now.” 

“I don’t feel good now.”

So much negativity went through my mind when I was supposed to sleep. I ran through the race in my head so many times to make sure I would not make any mistakes. My heart was racing, and I just could not bring myself to calm down and sleep.

So in total I only had a 5 minute power nap before I went to race in the finals.

On the starting blocks before the race I felt super exhausted and tired even before it started, and I guess we all should know the verdict of the race.

I touched 5th place, and I was utterly disappointed.

After the race I walked up to my mum.

“I guess it’s over, I tried my best, and I’ve got no regrets.”

I could tell from my mum’s body language that she was really hurt.

“I thought you would have learnt your mistakes from 2009 SEA Games and finally medal this one. What happened there? That was definitely not you swimming.”

“Well, yeah. Anyway I actually bought this box of waffles as I thought it would be a good way to celebrate the night with your friends with a medal finish. I really didn’t expect this, but just take these waffles and share it with your friends anyway.”

Disappointed, she walked away.

For a minute or 2 I just stood there, reflected on my race, my actions, my mistakes, and I started breaking into tears. I didn’t bother to warm down after my race. I tried to cover up to my friends by smiling so they didn’t know the amount of depression I was going through.

So I went back to the Games Village and stood at the highest level, learning on the railing, and reflected upon my life again. At that moment in time, the only way out was to just jump. To be honest you tend to not think straight when you are in that current state of mood.

How was I going to face reality? I promised army that I would bring a medal back, my own mum did not even want to talk to me, and nobody knew how I was feeling.

Just as I was about to make that jump, Russell walked pass.

“What the hell are you doing?!” He asked.

I didn’t reply him.

“COME BACK HERE AND JUST SIT DOWN NOW.” He could sense that there was something wrong with me and pulled me away from the railing.

“What were you thinking of doing?!” He said while he was grabbing hold of my hand tightly.

“…Jumping.” I said with a muffled voice.

“ARE YOU MAD?!” He exclaimed.

“No, I just don’t see another way out.” Tears continued streaming down my face.

“Hey Sheng Jun, you gotta understand this… When you jump, all problems are obviously going to be solved for you, because you wouldn’t even be here anymore! Imagine this, even though your mum is already disappointed now, but she will get over it sooner or later. But if you take the easy way out now, it is going to make it even worse for everyone, your parents are probably going to take a longer time, or never even be able to get over this. Even I myself would find it really hard to get over it if I ever lose you. Come on man, it’s a really selfish thing to do, don’t do it, think about everyone else. There is still 2013 SEA Games, trust me you can always aim to win that one. If that thought of jumping ever comes to your mind again, please let me know, and I will make sure it doesn’t happen.” Russell persuaded me.

I felt really touched at that point of time, but I still did not see a way out. But after thinking about my loved ones, I went away from the railing.

“Come russ, my mum bought this waffles for me to celebrate. Lets celebrate anyway.” And we sat down together to enjoy the waffles.

As the saying goes, time heals all wounds, and I slowly bounced back over the years and that setback really motivated me to train much harder than I ever did. I could not stand defeat, so everyday leading up to the 2013 SEA Games I constantly had that thought of failure on my mind. That really motivated me to train harder everyday.

So with that mindset, I finally managed to win a Gold medal in the 2013 SEA Games 2 painful years later.


You have no idea how happy I was over here. All the disappointment, sadness and hurt vanished the moment I won a Gold medal for Singapore. The amount of pain that I felt over the years, the countless hours of training, I gotta say it was honestly worth it, and I’m glad that I never gave up on swimming.

You can’t always expect life to go according to your way, and sometimes you just have to believe in yourself in order to make things right.

Always remember that the joy of victory triumphs the hours of hard work and pain, so never ever be afraid of failing.

“You finally did it!” Russell said to me.

“Yeah, finally.” A big sigh of relief with a smile coming from me.

photo (2)

Looking back now I’m really glad that Russell stopped me from that jump, or I would not have been able to experience the joy that life has brought me now.

Knowing that the worst has already happened, I’m a much much stronger person now as I understand that failing is part and parcel of life. It’s failures like these that made me the strong willed and motivated person I am today. I train as hard as I can now because I know how painful it is to experience failure again, and I would do my best to not let it ever happen again.

I thank Russell for everything that he has done for me, he is definitely one of my best bros to date.

If you ever feel that it is impossible to find a way out in life, trust me, everything will get better in time. I have been there myself, and I got out of it, you just have to fight hard don’t ever think about giving up! Everyone faces failures before success.


So this is my story, what is yours? 

To end off my long blog post, this is a quote by Michael Jordan which really inspired me to train hard:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Everything is looking good towards SEA Games 2015!

Hard Work Pays Off! 


BLOG UPDATE: Like I mentioned I took 2 painful years to overcome my setback. If you’re facing a setback as well, read my latest blog post by clicking on this link here!


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24 Replies to “Everyone falls down at some point in their life… This was how I overcame my setback”

  1. Probably the first guy to read it. I am really touched by it. I am also feeling the some how the same way like how you felt that time. I hope you could email I can bring myself up again. Could you be a listening ear and advice me on what to do? My email is sukartiojonathan@gmail.com. Thanks for this post. I have been reading all your posts since I saw you on SCM this August.

  2. Everyone has their moments of pain, anguish and disappointment in life, its just part and parcel of being human .. of flesh and blood we are made. I had one similar experience at the MRT platform many years ago being overwhelmed by grief, the loss of my beloved mum. Many thoughts flashed through my mind and its cloudy for sure. No Russell (Ong if I’m not wrong) by my side, its just a struggle between the “angel” and “demon” in myself. Here I am reading your story with a lot to relate to, the rest are history. Never look back cos time is designed and destined to move only forward, not backwards. You have been a very nice person and for this alone, the world needs you. I’m very happy for your successes in life thus far but also be mindful that life is never a bed of roses. Even roses have thorns!! LOL! Brave challenging encounters and take things easy, you will be fine. Do what you love doing and stay happy, that’s the most important thing in life. I have nothing to offer you except a big bear hug. All the best and feel blessed. Jiayou son .. Singaporean son.

    1. Hi Yappy,

      Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement!
      I’m really glad that you didn’t make the jump, life is precious so we have to treasure it when we can. 🙂
      We have to stay strong no matter how tough life gets and accept all challenges!

      All the best to you too Yappy!

  3. Everyone needs a Russell in their life.

    When I wanted to commit suicide x5 times. The only thing that stopped me was cos I was too chicken to do it. Then I told myself maybe one day I might just get to actually doing the deed.

    1. Don’t do it. Believe it or not God is that Russell in your life and He was there during those moments. He is in fact better than Russell and anyone else. He knows every single thing about you, but you just don’t know Him yet..

  4. I feel you. The Os are tmr and I still feel that I will fail. Probably had these thoughts for the past couple of weeks but just couldn’t muster the courage to jump…

    I’m still finding my own Russell. Maybe he doesn’t exist for me, who knows?

  5. what?? you were going to jump because u did not win the medal??? and your unappreciative mum who obviously needs parent child relationship therapy was not there to tell u tt its ok tt u did your best?? dude…u just wasted my time with your story. other teenagers and people have real problems in this world and they don’t waste time thinking about suicide. grow some balls, wise up, and good luck for your future boy. no sea games medal gonna prepare you for that.

    1. It’s not about failing to get a medal, it was more about my own expectations, and that medal meant a lot to me. My mum appreciates me a lot, that is why she cared so much. I wouldn’t be loving my life so much now if it weren’t for my family, so please don’t assume if you don’t know me well enough. Also, if you don’t like the story, nobody is forcing you to read it.

      This story has inspired many others so I guess it has served it’s purpose. Read my new blog post about negativity, and look at the positive aspects of this post instead of the negative ones. You’ll be happier that way! 🙂

      Thank you for your well wishes! I’ll be working hard for next year’s SEA Games.

  6. This post resonated so much. Although i have been coming to terms with it over the past 12 years, I have yet to be able to put it out there in public. I don’t feel particularly happy that I was so weak and vulnerable thanks to my perfectionism. This a great post. A great read. Thank you for putting this story out. And I believe that somewhere out there for those who struggle, we are either thankful for our own Russell/s or we wished we had one. For some, it might have been to late to get a Russell or to be a Russell for those who chose to take that final horrifying path. Be brave and strong! And do seek help if clouds turn dark again.

  7. Thank you very much for your story. It is very inspiring to see how u have rise up from your lowest point and make a good come back. I think not many people know how many individuals have contemplated suicide. It is good friends and positive people that you surround with that will help you. Thanks again for your sharing . All the best in the future

  8. I have two friends that committed suicide because they were once in their heyday but fall in the depths and they never thought they could ever recover.

    One was an aspiring sportsmen but because of a spinal deformation discovered a few years prior and was forced to abandon the dreams of becoming successful and, thus felt into a great depression and overdose on a great lord of sleeping pills.

    The other was an aspiring musician but due to the parent’s expectations, went on a path that was different, failed badly, took to drug abuse and got finally fell down from great heights and thus ended what was a promising life.

    Right now, i have a third friend, whose condition was similar to the first, discovered a medical deformation and felt very upset about the condition of the life he is living. He is under treatment but i wished i could get inspiration from you to help him get back to his feet.

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