Sorry mum and dad, I didn’t make it to the Olympics

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… Aaaaaaaaand it’s official, I have failed to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I can honestly say that I am indeed disappointed having failed to qualify for the most prestigious event of swimming, but hey, the worst has already happen, so everything will just get better from here!

Swimming’s a pretty brutal sport – even if you’ve hit the qualifying time for the Rio Olympics, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get to go to the Olympics. For those that are unsure, let me explain it to you.

So according to FINA rules, they have set a maximum limit of swimmers at 900, meaning that once the 900 swimmer quota is met, the rest of the swimmers will not stand a chance to swim in the Rio Olympics. On paper, 900 swimmers may seem like a lot, but in reality, it is actually really really little, and I’ll break it down for you.

There are a total of 4 different pathways to qualify for the Olympics, prioritized in this order:

  1. Athletes who have made the A Qualification time for the Olympics and also the Top 2 in their respective countries
  2. Athletes who have qualified in the Top 16 places in relays
  3. To promote universality, countries without any qualified athletes may enter a maximum of 2 athletes – 1 male 1 female, also known as wild cards
  4. Athletes who have made the B Qualification time for the Olympics

As you can see, most of us swimmers fall into the 4. category, whereby we made the B qualification times for the Olympics. Back in 2008 they didn’t have a max limit of 900 swimmers, which means any athlete which hits the B qualification time would be part of the Olympics. But my guess is that due to swimming’s competitive nature, many swimmers in the world made the B qualification time, which is why they limit the swimmers to 900 swimmers only, which also means that qualifying for the Olympics just became waaaaaaaaaay harder.

Excuse my math, but if I were to calculate it really vaguely, power houses like USA, Japan, Australia, France, etc would have about 26 male and female athletes who have met the A qualifying times for the Olympics, so that’s about a 4-500 spots gone. Relays would add up to roughly another 50-100 spots. For universality/wild cards spots, there are 196 countries in the world, so if you were to take out the powerhouses, there would be about 150 countries left who will be aiming for universality/wild card spots, which takes up to another 300 spots with 1 male and 1 female taking each spot. After deducting swimmers who have met one of the first 3 pathways to the Olympics, swimmers who made the B qualification marks will be left with about… 50 spots.

Since there are 26 events in both male and female events, only the top B qualifier would qualify for the Olympics, which makes it really really tough. So unfortunately, all of us were not the top B qualifier based on rankings of B qualifiers.

Pretty brutal, ain’t it?

All the years of training you put into qualifying for the Olympics all seem like a waste, and all you can do is to go back to training another 4 years and hopefully being able to qualify for the next Olympics with the A Qualifying time.

Thoughts of unfairness have crossed my mind quite a bit. Like why do they have the stupid 900 limit rule? Why wasn’t I born earlier so that I would have made the 2008 Olympics?

But you know what, I came to realize that thoughts like these are irrelevant. Honestly, what’s the point of brooding over something that I can’t change the outcome on? I should just move on, and learn to control what I can control in life, which is to train harder to make the A qualifying time in the next Olympics, and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

You know, I think the biggest relief I had was that before I left for Florida for my training camp, I had a heart to heart talk with my parents, and they said that they were already really proud of what I achieved in my swimming career, regardless of whether I make it to the Olympics or not, and that just gave me a sense of inner peace deep down in my heart.

I’ve always wanted to do my parents proud, and one of my dream was to be able to stand on the podium in a major competition and see the smile on my parent’s faces in the spectator stands when I collect my medal. I was able to do it during SEA Games last year, and best part was that it was done in home soil, which made everything even sweeter.

So for them to assure me with that, really make me change my whole perception of swimming, and that shifted my focus onto swimming because I love swimming, without having the emotional stress which I constantly placed on myself in the past.

Thanks for still believing in me though I’ve failed to make the Olympics this time around, Mum and Dad. But there’s always the next one 🙂

P.S. So for parents, know that we swimmers are really stressful even when we don’t show it, so a simple gesture of letting your kids know that you’re proud of them can go a long way 😉

My swimming career has never been a smooth sail as well, but I’m thankful because failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics is merely just a minor setback for me. It doesn’t take much to move on and keep my mind focused on the next upcoming competition. Besides, I enjoy the adrenaline rush of every competition; nothing beats the chills you get when you get a huge surge of adrenaline rush before every race. And constantly beating my personal best times just further proves that my hard work has paid off.

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So with that said, what’s next for me? Well, in all honestly, my passion for swimming has grown a lot stronger through the years, and if you’ve read my article on TODAY just last week, I ain’t going anywhere away from the pool just yet! I’m in the best shape of my life and I’ve swam personal best times untapered, so things will only get better from here.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy swimming because I’m in love with this sport, and I’m sure that things will play out well naturally.

I have great mentors, coaches and teammates who are supporting me all the way so I’m really excited towards my next phase of training, a minor setback won’t stop me from working hard. To those who still have strong faith in me after this setback, here’s a BIG THANK YOU to you. You know who you are, and I am eternally grateful. 🙂

Overall, I feel that the biggest takeaway I get from swimming is not so much about the medals that I’ve won, or the achievements that I’ve had. What’s most important is about the relationships that I’ve made and the people that I’ve inspired over the years of my swimming career by overcoming my setbacks.

Swimming has strengthen my mental state as an individual through the constant setbacks being thrown at me and how I managed to overcome each and everyone of them, and that is something you can’t learn in school.

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Medals will rust, but relationships forged in the swimming scene will last a lifetime. Also, seeing how much I’ve inspired people to pursue what they’re passionate in after reading about my swimming career experiences also made me realize that winning isn’t always everything, there are many other reasons to be happy when you’re doing what you love.

Yes, swimming is brutal indeed, a mistake you make in your race would mean costing you that qualification mark or the medal you desire. But ultimately, if you focus on the journey and love the sport as a whole, you’ll have an unforgettable journey filled with wonderful memories to be remembered after you retire.


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12 Replies to “Sorry mum and dad, I didn’t make it to the Olympics”

  1. You will go very far in life with this positive attitude you have. Kudos to you and your parents who hv done a fine job in raising you.

    1. Thanks for the wise words Victor! I’ve already moved on from it and I’m currently training hard for the next competition. All the best to you too 🙂 sky’s the limit!

  2. Thank you for pointing it out, what we (Paralympic Swimmers) also feel about those stupid quotes. But, winning isn’t everything! It’s also good to learn and keep fighting better to achieve your dreams. Lots of success to you! 🙂

  3. These are fabulous words which nearly every swimmer, every athlete, can live by. Most athletes do not end careers with glamorous victory. My victorious college senior season in 1978 included finally winning the 400 IM at conference; then concluded by disastrously missing the final flip turn in Lane Four of the 200 IM and taking third, never to win that race. I knew then that I could have made the 1964 Olympic team. But was nowhere close to the 1980 team! PSJ would have cruised onto the 1980 team. And so on … that’s the way swimming goes. THESE WISE WORDS BY PSJ point out that I will always have the mental fortitude I learned/earned in swimming. And the fitness habits which carry me still today. And above all the relationships which have endured decades. For those many athletes for whom it ended on a down note, I say Nay Nay! The rewards last a lifetime!

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