You can tell that I really hated the pool when I was a kid. I’m the small boy in the middle, of course. My sisters definitely enjoyed the water more than I did. In case you were wondering, I have 2 sisters – Joelle (extreme left) and Sijia (extreme right). I still remember dreading the pool when I was a little kid as I just didn’t like to put my head in the pool, I wasn’t sure why, but I think I was afraid that sharks may eat me when I put my head down. However, my parents were always patient with my swimming progress and never once forced me to dip my head in the pool.
My sisters, on the other hand, were really fast learners. So you could imagine me playing in the baby pool while they were already training in 50m Olympic sized swimming pools.
“Dad!!! GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
… Here’s more proof to illustrate my fear of the water.
To be honest, I was more geared towards land based activities… like horse riding. (Nah, just joking) but you can obviously tell that I was enjoying myself in these photos. Look at that boss like facial expression on top. Ridin’ da horse likka boss.
But we all know that horse riding wasn’t a career path to choose from at that point in time when I was a kid as it just isn’t realistic to take horse riding as a sport, so I had no choice but to overcome the fear of the water.
Another reason was also because the doctor recommended swimming to me due to my asthmatic conditions assuring that swimming would help with my breathing, so that gave me the motivation to learn swimming.
Since then, my journey as a swimmer had officially begun.
Unlike many others, learning to swim didn’t come naturally for me, I had to learn it the hard way. Putting my head in the water was one of my greatest fears when I was a kid, so I spent most of my time hanging by the lane lines while others were already swimming laps. Because of that, I was actually being made fun of by the guys and girls who were in the same swimming class as me. They would laugh at my inability to put my head down in the water and that really made me feel inferior as compared to them. I remember trying to find excuses to skip training as I just didn’t like being made fun of. Nobody likes being made fun of and that made me really sad as a kid.
However, my parents and sisters found out about it and told me to take the insults and comments in a positive way to motivate myself to work even harder. And sure enough, I did.
Obviously it didn’t feel good when people were throwing nasty comments at me, but I was able to take it with a pinch of salt and learn that everyone has a different starting point in their career, so every small step that I take will be a step closer to becoming a great swimmer. My sisters also guided me along the way so that made me enjoy swimming much more.
In order to overcome the fear of water, one of the methods was to learn to swim Backstroke first instead of Freestyle, which worked out well for me. (P.S. Backstroke is my worst stroke today, the irony…)
So after swimming many many many laps of Backstroke, I’ve came to a realization that my head was technically dipped in the pool and no sharks ate me during those many laps of Backstroke, so that gave me the courage to try on Freestyle.
Overtime, I caught up with my teammates and my passion for the sport grew even bigger when I saw that my swimming timings were improving tremendously. People stopped making fun of me when they saw the amount of progress that I have made and guess what? We all became really good friends! With that, the swimming pool became a place for me to escape reality and have fun for a bit. I didn’t dread the pool as much as before as I’ve overcame the fear of water and I enjoyed swimming a lot. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of the pool as I was just a really energetic kid!
However, my sisters stopped swimming way before me. They excelled more in their studies so they decided to focus more on academics instead. On the other hand, I chose swimming over studies as I was really an active kid in general and swimming was a way for me to channel all that energy in a positive way.
Even though I wasn’t the best swimmer when I was young, but my parents always had ways to keep me motivated in the sport. They would enter me in novice meets whereby the competition was much easier to win but even so, I struggled to win a bronze medal. But hey, a medal meant a lot to me at that point in time, because it showed progress and that was all I ever wanted. Although it was a bronze medal for the novice swim meet, my parents were still really proud of me.
To give you an idea on how happy there were, they celebrated my victory even more than when they celebrated during SEA Games, so you can imagine how lousy I was at that point of time, but they never once gave up on me.
To be honest, they have been the reason why I’ve been working so hard in my life, seeing the smile on their faces every time I swam a good race has kept me going for so many years.
So these little baby steps slowly brought me to where I am today, from a Novice meet bronze medallist, I strived to become a Novice meet gold medallist, and after that I went on to try out age group meets (which I usually finished 8th-10th positions) but I was already happy to finish top 10 because I was so used to losing my whole life so that didn’t stop me from training harder and aiming higher after each race.
Of course, I didn’t let all the trash talk from others stop me from achieving my goal. There were people who didn’t trust my abilities, labelling me as an inferior swimmer as compared to the ‘better ones’, but I was already immune to all the doubters as I had to deal with them when I was a kid, so being a slow learner has its perks after all.
This goes to show that in life, whether it is a good or bad experience, everything happens for a reason. We all have to believe in the journey and keep working hard. If I have had a smooth sail throughout my entire career, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with setbacks the way I deal with it today.
It’s really nice to see how much I’ve progressed over the years, this goes to show that hard work will always pay off.
Looking back at my life now, I feel thankful that I wasn’t born a winner, I’ve learnt it the hard way, and it has taught me an important lesson in life –
It is perfectly normal to fail, because failing is part and parcel of life and through failing, you’re actually taking a step closer to success by learning from your bad experiences. And trust me, success will always be sweeter when it is hard earned, so don’t ever give up!
Hope my life story will inspire you to soar to greater heights!
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