As the mid year of 2015 approaches, I can honestly say that it has been the most competition packed experience in my entire swimming career. Just to give you an idea on how many competitions I’ve competed in this year so far:
1) Singapore National Age Group (SNAG) (Singapore)
2) Spanish Open (Spain)
3) Mesa Grand Prix (Arizona)
4) SEA Games (Singapore)
5) Singapore Open
This is actually the amount of competitions that I compete in a span of a year, but it’s only midway now and I’ve already completed these competitions, so you can roughly feel how exhausted I am right now; but don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying the ride so far. It has taught me many mental skills which I can apply to my swimming and future in the long run.
Having so many competitions lined up, it has allowed me to overcome the fear of failure. Like what coach Sergio always say to us, “When you have a bad competition, you can cry for 5 minutes, but after crying, you’re going to get back up on your feet, and start training hard again for the next competition.” I know it’s easier said than done, but having so many competitions really allowed us to try out different race strategies and race our hearts out during those competitions.
I can still recall Spain and Arizona, Sergio entered me into 7 of my toughest events – 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m Freestyle, 200m, 400m Individual Medley as he wanted to ‘train me to become a man’. I did reasonably well in Spain, considering that it was only a week after SNAG, and even set a personal best time in the 1500m Freestyle. However I started to feel really exhausted when it came to Arizona, which was 2 weeks after Spain, as I never experienced such a packed competition schedule in my life before. I remembered telling Sergio that I wanted to pull out of the 1500m Freestyle as I just couldn’t physically handle it anymore. “Don’t give me this bull**** Pang, I know damn well how you feel and you’re going to swim your heart out no matter what happens. If nobody is going to train you to become a man, I will.” I got so angry at that point of time as I was really tired and I couldn’t escape from the dreadful 1500m Freestyle, which is also the longest ever event in swimming, but I had no choice so I swam it anyway.
Although I didn’t do as well as expected in that race, I’ve learnt that no matter how tired you may be, we’ll have to psych ourselves up and create the best possible race no matter what – It’s about creating the best possible situation even when you’re not at your best shape. Because if you think about it, you will not always be feeling good in every competition, so we have to learn to not give up and continue racing hard and not care about ‘how I feel’.
To be honest, after my Arizona competition experience, every time I’m up racing and I’m feeling really tired now I’ll be thinking – Well, this definitely feels better than Arizona, so it would be easier to step it up. An example would be Singapore Open last week. Honestly speaking, I had really bad preparation leading up to it as we took a short break after SEA Games to rest down for a bit, so I was not race fit for Singapore Open. I still remember dreading the 1500m Freestyle again for Singapore Open (Sergio wanted me to swim it) and after my Arizona experience I knew that there was definitely no way for me to pull out of the race, I only had 1 option – which was to race my heart out in it no matter how bad I was feeling. It was more of a mental test for me – To believe in myself despite not being as race fit as I wanted to be, but over the months of mental training from Sergio I managed to psych myself up for the race. I remembered how tired and exhausted I was in Spain and Arizona so that definitely gave me the confidence that I needed to race well in it.
Guess what? I touched the wall with a personal best time of 16min 02.86s, better than the mark I set in Spain which was 16m 03.48, and it honestly felt unreal. After my race I smiled at Sergio and he gave me a fist bump and told me, “Pang, I think you finally realize that you are far greater than what you think you are. Let’s work hard towards Worlds.”
With that said, I’m thankful that I’m starting to believe more in my ability as a swimmer. I’m sure that it will benefit me with just 3 weeks left to the World Swimming Championships. Time to create the perfect moment again when the competition starts.
To end off my post, I’m going to drop a really powerful message that Sergio always tell me before a main set.
“Pang, how fast do you think you are going to swim today?”
And the correct answer would be,
“… Faster than you think. :)”
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