Appreciation post: My 5th SEA Games ended in a blink of an eye

Still can’t believe that the 2017 SEA Games is already over! It honestly feels like it was just December yesterday when the season just started. I’m happy that I can finally bid farewell to those sleep deprived nights, and the countless hours of pushing my body to its maximum pain threshold; all that to clock faster times during race day. It’s time to pig out and sleep forever now!!!!

Although I’m relieved that the pressure is finally over, I’m also sad that it has ended. I’ll definitely miss the adrenaline high that the competition brings once I’ve caught up with my sleep debt.

The harsh reality is starting to hit me as I looked back at my first SEA Games in 2009 – I’m getting old, and my role in the squad has changed from a rookie to a senior. More pressure comes naturally knowing that the clock is ticking for me career wise as age is definitely catching up, but I’ll just enjoy every moment I have left in this sport.

I came in to the 2017 SEA Games with a goal in mind – To win my first individual Gold medal at the SEA Games. I’m sure that many of you know that medals don’t come easy for me at the games, and I still have yet to win my first individual Gold medal. I was at the fittest shape in my career, so this goal was definitely achievable.

My best shot was in the Individual Medley events, and the closest one was the 200m Individual Medley.

The first 3 lengths of my swim went according to plan, and I was positioned at about 3rd place approaching the last 50m. I could see the silhouette of the first place swimmer as we were neck to neck, and that literally gave me the the surge of adrenaline through my body as I approached the Freestyle. However, the last 15m felt as though time slowed down for me as lactate was kicking in tremendously at this point of the race.

“Do it for Singapore, for Singapore. For Singapore…” was all that went through my head in the last 15m. At this point in time I couldn’t see the guy who was fighting for 1st place as my head was already down preparing for the finish.

I hit the wall as hard as I could, and turn straight to look at the score board.

My heart sank pretty deep when I saw a (2) next to my name. The difference that separated a Gold from a Silver was just 0.3 seconds. It was really hard to accept the fact that this happened.

Imagine working your ass off 30 hours a week and to see yourself getting out touched by 0.3 seconds, that was something I couldn’t bring myself to believe. I kinda felt my heart cramping a little at that point in time, and the harder I tried to control my emotions, the more it felt like someone was cutting a million onions beside me, and that was when I started to break down a little.

However, that’s not the point of this story; through this losing experience, I’ve came to learn the power and influence of a team, and how they helped turn my painful experience into a good one.

Words can’t describe how grateful I was for my coaches, teammates, and support staffs as they came to cheer me up and reassure me that everything was ok. They still regarded me like a winner of the race which made it feel a whole lot better for me.

As we had a relay at the same night that was coming up, my relay mates Danny, Zheng, and Joseph also cheered me back up and told me that the night wasn’t over, and we could end it off it a bang together.

With the assurance everyone gave me, I was able to get rid of the sadness quickly from my race and move on from it, and thanks to everyone, we ended off with a bang indeed. 🙂

Swimming may seem like an individual sport, but when you spend countless of hours day in and day out with the same people, you create an unbreakable bond between your teammates and coaches. Behind every swimmer, there’s always an endless amount of support from coaches, teammates, Sport Science team (which includes Nutritionist, Physiologist, Psychologist, Biomechanist, and Strength and Conditioning), various masseurs, and not forgetting our parents and significant others as well. So on the surface it may seem like an individual effort, but if you dig deeper, swimming is much more than an individual sport.

There’s always a lot of pressure when it comes to racing big meets like these as you’re not only swimming for yourself, but you are racing for the team that is behind you as well.

To the coaches Gary, Stephan, and Sonya, thank you for being like our second parents, guiding us and allowing us to pour any troubles and worries that we may have in our lives (it can be as ridiculous as relationship problems), and always being there for us 24/7. The ratio of coaches to swimmers is about 1:10, so it’s amazing how you guys are able to know each and every swimmer inside out.

To the Sport Science team, thank you for convincing me about the importance of warm downs, diet, and mental strength when it comes to optimum race performance. I’ve definitely learnt a lot from you guys and I’ll apply what I’ve learnt when the next season begins!

To my amazing teammates, I’m glad we pushed each other during the hardest days of training, because it sure paid off during the Games! Congrats to each and everyone of you for your achievements and lets all strive for another great season again together. 🙂

To my roommate “Zheng Wei”, mad props to you for winning an individual Gold medal in your SEA Games debut! There’s honestly so many things that I can learn from you so I look forward to our next competition as roommates again!

To my bestest friend, thank you for flying all the way to KL to support me! Glad I’m still a winner in your heart. Like what you said – it’s not that I’ve lost my races, it’s that others have won. I’ve already did my personal best times, so have no regrets. Grateful to have someone like you to constantly pick me up during my lowest moments. 🙂

To my really patient parents, I’m just glad to not leave the games empty handed this time around! Thank you for always believing in me despite coming home empty handed for my first 2 SEA Games. I’m glad that you guys never gave up on me and we pulled through.

To my sisters, sorry I couldn’t get a photo with you all at the games, but thank you for coming all the way down to Malaysia to support me. It’s nice to have the whole family behind me during my races! 🙂

Lastly, here’s a BIG THANK YOU to everyone that has supported me through my races! I’ve read all your really encouraging messages and I’m really grateful for that. It has definitely made me proud to be part of Team Singapore. 🙂

Also, special mention to my bro Adrian Seetho for always capturing these wonderful moments of my swimming career! These will be the photos I’ll look back on to bring back great memories when I retire from the sport. You’ve definitely brought back many great memories for all of us through your passion for photography!

This concludes my 2017 chapter. I’ve definitely grown a lot as an individual this year and there are definitely things that I’ll need to work on leading up to the next few major competitions, which may potentially be my last ones. There isn’t much time left for me in the sport, so I’ll enjoy every moment and seize every opportunity I have to work even harder. And maybe who knows, the stars may align and the odds may be in my favor for the next one.  I’ll always keep my faith in God. 🙂

 

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This is how news should be reported

I got inspired to write this post today when my mum came across an Instagram post, which I believe was from a Hong Kong reporter, who’s currently also writing about the Rio Olympic Games on his Instagram page. Without further ado, this is his post:

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I believe that many of you are like me, and you’re not sure what he’s saying. My mum translated the article for me and I strongly feel that this is an article we all can learn from, so here’s the translation: 

(Inspired by Ye Shi Wen to write this)

There are many respectable heroes in the battle field, especially when races are running and medals are continuously won. but do you know that there is a lot to learn besides winning and losing?

For these past few days, I’ve been following the performances of the Hong Kong team, China team, and even some of the world’s greatest swimmers. However, nothing beats the experience I had just awhile ago.  

4 years ago, Ye shi wen was a double Olympic champion in the 2012 London Olympic Games with the World Record in the 400m Individual Medley and Olympic Record in the 200m Individual Medley. But as we all know, good things don’t last. There were some complications with her which lead to a decline in her times. The former champion experienced a plateau in her performance while she saw everyone overtaking her. If you’re a swimmer yourself, I’m sure that you’ll be able to feel the pain that she’s feeling. I’m not 100% certain about this, but I’m sure that many of you would have given up if you were facing the same problem as her. But she fought on, and earn her spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Sadly, things didn’t go her way in the 2016 Rio Olympics, she tried her best, only to finish 17 seconds off her personal best time, which placed her 27th in her 400m Individual Medley. 

Next up was her 200m Individual Medley. I was lucky to be able to grab her for an interview after her 200m Individual Medley race yesterday after she placed 4th overall after her semi final swim, and she was really friendly when I interviewed her. She said that she physically and mentally did the best preparation she could, and placing 4th going into the final really boosted her overall morale after her upset in the 400m Individual Medley swim. She mentioned that there were many strong competitors in the field. Everyone is hungry for a medal, which makes it a really competitive field, so she will just do her best. I wished her luck and we concluded the interview. 

I watched her race from the mixed zone the following day, rooting for her to win a medal. However, she had a really slow start in the Butterfly, and at that point in time, I knew the race was over. I saw the scoreboard and her time was 4 seconds slower than her semi final time, and I was pretty shocked. 

I waited for her at the media zone, hoping that she will accept another interview with me. I wasn’t very hopeful as I’ve observed Ning Zetao and Sun Yang ignoring an interview with the media after their bad races. But to my surprise, she walked up to me with calmness and composure. She told me that her goggles filled up with water when she dived into race. At that point in time I wanted to scream my lungs out as I was really sad for her. But Ye Shi Wen said that it’s her fault, and she bears full responsibility for it and completed the race anyway. 

Swimming is such a brutal sport – The many hours spent training your heart out, overcoming various obstacles just for that very moment, to only end up with a bad race. That has really left me speechless. 

It’s always nice to celebrate when you win, but can you accept failure when you lose? She was really gracious with her defeat, and I have my utmost respect for her.

Even though you are no longer the world champion, but in my heart, you are already a champion.

Forgive me for my bad writing, even though you may not understand this, but I do, and I hope you do too.

Kudos to you Dickson Yu, your article has indeed inspired me as well. I think we can all learn from Dickson’s character, and the way he writes. He must have probably huddled with all other reporters in hope to churn out a good report as well; and he certainly did. He was able to turn a negative experience into a positive article, and that to me is what differentiates a successful reporter from a mediocre one. 

Incredible. 

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I think we should all be focusing on the positives – Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen just made SINGAPORE HISTORY by making Semi Finals at the Olympic Games, and this is already huge progress for Singapore Swimming. No male swimmer has ever made it to the Semi Finals at the Olympic Games, and now we have TWO swimmers who achieved that feat, so there is already a lot to celebrate!!!

Congratulations guys! Thanks for flying our flag high at the international stage, we are all already proud of you both. 

Another point I would like to address – Athletes who are visibly upset may find it hard to consolidate their thoughts for an interview, which is why they prefer not to be interviewed immediately after an upsetting race, as they need some time to cool down before being in the right shape of mind again.

Imagine training countless hours just for that race, only to know that you’ve messed it up the most important race of your life by just a bit, and if you didn’t mess up, you would have qualified for the finals. How awful is that feeling?

Dickson also mentioned that successful swimmers like Ning Zetao and Sun Yang also rejected their interview request after their bad races, so I guess even the most successful swimmers find it hard to handle a bad race as well.

Come on, we’re all human after all, and we have emotions as well. 

It’s really commendable that Dickson understands how an athlete feels after a bad race, which is why he didn’t expect Ye Shi Wen to be so calm and composed after her race, because he was expecting her to reject his interview too. 

His focus was not to blame Ye Shi Wen if she didn’t want an interview with him after her 200m Individual Medley race, and he just wanted the best for her.

He must have followed athletes for a very long time to understand the pain and sadness an athlete may potentially feel after a bad race, which is why he was even surprised that Ye Shi Wen accepted the interview graciously. 

Gosh, mad props to you Dickson. 

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As the Olympics are not over, I’m sure that we can learn from Dickson’s positive attitude together and unite as one Team Singapore and maintain our positive spirit for the remaining days of the Olympic Games. Come on guys, it happens once every 4 years, so there’s no time to be negative about it. 

At times like these, these athletes need our support the most, so the last thing we need now is negative publicity for them.

Lets all unite as ONE TEAM SINGAPORE, and cheer on the remaining swimming race that Singapore has, which is the 100m Butterfly for Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen today at 1:16am. 

GOOD LUCK JOSEPH AND ZHENG WEN! WE ARE ALL BEHIND YOU 🙂

 

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Why having live telecast of the Olympics matter to us

 

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Photo Credit: Peter Soon

August 8, 2015 – Joseph Schooling just made history by winning Singapore’s first ever podium finish at the World Swimming Championships.

I clearly remembered how happy everyone was when we saw his name appearing on the scoreboard, and to top it off, it happened a day before SG50. Each and every Singaporean felt a sense of national pride as they experienced history together as Joseph was collecting his World Championships medal, and it was definitely a heart-warming moment for all of us.

I recalled the amount of anxiety we all had before Joseph’s race. As none of us qualified for the finals, Joseph was our only hope to fly our flag high during the World Championships. When the commentator called his name, we all screamed our lungs out as though we were the ones who were swimming the race, and you could see Joseph turning over to acknowledge our cheering efforts. Trust me, we were all pretty damn nervous for him as the level of competition in the World Championships are equivalent to the Olympics, and many of the big guns were in the same 100m Butterfly race.

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The race started and Joseph headed into the first 50m with a leading time of 23.53 seconds. At this point in time, there was even more adrenaline pumping through our veins as we knew that history was about to be made, all he needed to do was to just hang on for another 50m, and that would give him a Gold medal. Our cheers started getting louder as the race progressed as we really wanted him to hang on. The feeling was just surreal, seeing Singapore in the lead for the first time at a world stage.

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At the last 25m of the race, Chad Le Clos (South Africa) and Laslo Cseh (Hungary) started inching up on him, and at that point in time, the whole stadium became so loud due to the excitement, and you couldn’t even hear yourself when you were screaming. We couldn’t even tell who was leading at the last 10m of the race as everyone was just so bunched up together at the final moments of the race. I remember just screaming and shouting my heart out to support Joseph and hope that he brings home a medal for us.

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The race was over, and when we looked up, we saw a Singapore flag lighting up on Lane 1 on the live television screen. The feeling of excitement was so indescribable, knowing that we were able to experience history live as Joseph brought back home a medal for Singapore on a world stage. There was a surge of excitement, happiness, and relief at the same time, knowing that Singapore history was made, and we were all able to experience it together. It was such a memorable moment for each and every one of us and I’m sure that people at home felt the same feeling when they managed to catch Joseph’s race live on television.

Failing to qualify for the Olympics this year, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch Joseph swim live at the Rio Olympic pool. However, I would love to see history being made again when I watch him swim from home. It’s different when you’re watching repeated telecast, because you already know that the outcome is going to be. I don’t want to know the results beforehand before being able to watch him swim. Because that takes away the excitement factor in sport, the feeling of uncertainty during his race, whether he’ll be able to hold on and bring home the gold medal.

I like to live in the moment, and feel the huge surge of adrenaline rush again when I watch him race his 100m Butterfly, and celebrate together with him when history is made again. I’m pretty sure that everyone feels the same way as well.

Broadcasting the Olympic Games will definitely unite all Singaporeans together through sport and promote an active lifestyle in Singapore in the long run, as people are going to remember the great moments from the Olympic Games, reminisce, and talk about it in the many years to come.

Having repeated telecast is like someone spoiling a good movie for you by telling you how the movie is going to end, and it is definitely not a pleasant feeling as your whole movie experience will be spoilt, knowing how the movie will pan out.

However, I’m sure that with the advancement of technology, there will potentially be different online streams that broadcasts the Rio Olympics live. So if we really want to, we should still be able to watch the Olympics live. If there’s a will, there will be a way. 🙂

Coming from a swimmer’s perspective, it definitely feels better racing knowing that you have your country behind you all the way during your race. Because besides achieving your own goals, you’ll be doing it for the country as well.

So let’s all unite, and get behind our athletes as they do their best in the Olympics! I’m sure that it will spur them on to greater performances.

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“This is my home, where I grew up and where everything started. My friends and family are going to be there and I’m really excited to be racing in a home atmosphere for once.” An excerpt from Joseph Schoolings interview during the 2015 SEA Games.

All the best to you in your quest for the Olympics Joseph! The country is behind you, do us proud!

And to all the other athletes competing in Olympics, we’re all behind you! 

 

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The season has finally come to an end. Looking forward to create greater moments

The hectic season has finally come to and end and I’m glad to say that we all have had a wonderful season this year and I hope to be able to achieve greater heights for next year! Everything seems to be going smooth for me and I’m sure that as long as I keep my spirits up, I’ll be able to swim well.

Sorry for not blogging for about 3 weeks now; I was away for a training camp in Croatia followed by the FINA World Swimming Championships in Kazan during this period of time and I didn’t bring my laptop along so blogging was practically impossible.

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Competing in the FINA World Swimming Championships was a great experience for me, the stadiums were really packed during the swimming finals (which is about 10,000) people watching the swimming competition. The crowd went crazy every time a Russian swimmers name was called and it was really nice just to be able to absorb the atmosphere in first hand.

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… Well this was me trying to have a little fun during break time.

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Compared to Croatia, the weather here was really inconsistent – you’ll see us in Parkas for a minute, and wearing shirts and shorts for the next because the fluctuation in temperature is just too drastic.

My goal for the FINA World Swimming Championships was really to get as much experience as possible racing with the best in the world and I’m glad I was able to learn a few lessons. Sergio told us that we already had a great season so he just wanted us to do our best in World Champs.

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I think the most memorable thing that happened in this Worlds was Joseph Schooling winning a medal! The feeling of experiencing his win first hand was just amazing. History was made in 51 seconds and I’m just glad to be able to experience it first hand. It definitely inspired me to aim high and work towards my goals. Like what Sergio said, anything is achievable as long as we believe in ourselves. Even if people may think that our goals are crazy, nothing can stop us as long as we put our mind to it, and Joseph has proved it by making history for Singapore.

Just to summarize my trip, here are some of the photos which we took in the course of 3 weeks (photo credits to Uncle Peter for most photos):

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Overall, the World Championships was a really good learning experience for me and it would definitely help me in my preparation to qualify for the Rio Olympics next year! As long as I give the best I can in my preparation, I’ll have no regrets whether I make it or not. To qualify for the Olympics was always my lifetime dream ever since I was a kid, and since my season has been going really smooth so far, I hope that I will be able to keep up the good form and continue to improve even more during the upcoming Olympic trials. It will be hard, but no matter what I’m going to give it my all towards achieving my life time goal. I’m much tougher mentally now, and I’m sure that will help me during the most fatigue days of my preparation.

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But with all that said, it’s time to relax for now as Sergio has given us a break until September 1st, in which I shall take this opportunity to relax my mind and body before commencing on the next phase of mental and physical grinding again.

It has been a really tiring season for me with 6 months full of competitions, but nonetheless it has also been the best season that I’ve ever had in my lifetime so I hope that it will continue to be an upward slope for the next phase of my preparation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone (From parents, coaches, sport science staff, the support team, fans) for your support over the course of my season. Everything wouldn’t have been possible without your support! I shall not name names as the list would be endless but I’m sure you know who you are. 🙂

I’ll be updating my progress with regards to my preparation so wish me luck! 🙂

 

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