Everyone usually know who the winners are in SEA Games as they’re often glorified by the media. But behind the glamour and glory, lies the athletes who did their best, but fell short of delivering the medals. These are the athletes who have put in the same amount of work and effort into their preparation for the games, but often get out-shadowed by the ones that won, which inspired me to write this today.
I’ve been there before, feeling insignificant when others hang their medals around their neck while I went home empty handed, not once, but twice. It kinda felt like I spent my whole season working my heart off just to reap 0 rewards at the end of the day, so it left me a feeling of emptiness, like everything I worked for just went to waste.
Being on the other side of the fence now, there are a few things that I’ve learnt over the years that I wish I knew last time, and maybe I would have been a much happier person back then.
I think many athletes tend to blame themselves when the outcome is not what they expect. But ask yourself, did you leave everything you have in the pool? If you did, then DON’T EVER BLAME YOURSELF for not doing as well as you expected for that race, because you already swam to the best of your ability, and that is what counts. So don’t see yourself as a failure; rather, use this race as motivation to strive harder and achieve better for the next competition.
Instead of “I could have changed this part of my race and the outcome would have been different.” Think “When I change this part of my race, I will be able to do better in the next competition.”
One thing that hurt me the most was to see teammates crying at the SEA Games because they missed out on the medal placings. It wasn’t because they did badly, it was just that their competitors did better. I had my fair share of crying too when I missed out on the medals in some of my events even when I swam my personal best time, but it’s okay to cry when you literally spend half your life in the pool, so it definitely means a lot to us. More importantly, we have to stop blaming ourselves, and realize that we did not lose, it’s just that others have done better than us, and we’ll get them back the next time again.
I understand that there might be a feeling that you’ve let everyone who supported you down, but trust me, you already did your best, and they are already proud of what you’ve achieved. Always remember that the people that truly care for you will be always be there with you through the bad times, and rejoice with you during your good times.
If it makes you feel any better, an average size of a SEA Games squad is about 15 guys and 15 girls, which means you’re already 1 of the 15 fastest swimmers in Singapore, and from Sports Singapore’s National Sports Participation Survey, there are approximately 259,800 people that swim. So to be 15th out of 259,800 people, which is the top 0.0003% in Singapore (don’t worry I used a calculator for this), is already an amazing feat! So don’t see any less of yourself.
I know I digressed a little, but you get my point, don’t see any less of yourself.
I remember back in 2011 when I was about to give up swimming, an advice given from my mum stuck with me till today: It doesn’t matter how slow you are at the start of your career, what matters most is at the end of the day, you end off at where you want to be in life. It may take you months, or years of hard work to get there, but always remember that you’re in your own race, and there is no one else you’ll need to compare to besides yourself. So keep your head up and keep fighting on, and you’ll get to where you want to be one day.
Reach your fullest potential and be the best version of yourself.
Lastly, always remember that God has a plan for you, and your time will come eventually. All you have to do is to trust and enjoy the process and things will fall into place for you. I remember being really furious in my prayers when I failed to medal in the past 2 editions of my SEA Games, like does He even exist? But looking back now I realized that He always had a plan for me. For all you know, I may have retired if I had won a medal at my first SEA Games, because my goal would be achieved and I would be complacent. But losing gave me a far greater swimming experience as it has made me a stronger individual, someone who is no longer afraid of failure because when you’ve fallen that deep, things will only get better from there on wards. So keep the faith, and realized that you’ve already come so far. It took you many years to come this far, so don’t give up just yet!
To the unsung heroes of the SEA Games, remember that you’re already a winner. Lets strive do to better for the next. 🙂
P.S. Photos were taken by Adrian Seetho and Andy Chua from the 2017 SEA Games. All credit goes to them!