Live everyday like it is your last day on earth

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At 23 years old of age, I still hug my parents to sleep every night. I remember back in my secondary school days when I hugged my parents every week before boarding into the Singapore Sports School, I would have often been told by some of my friends to stop being a ‘mama’s boy’ as though hugging my parents goodbye was a thing that only little kids would do. However, that didn’t stop me from hugging them goodbye, or good night every single night, and let me explain why this means a lot to me.

Life is short, and unpredictable, and I’ve had many friends who lost their loved ones unexpectedly and never got a chance to say goodbye. Learning from their painful experiences, I’ve learnt to live life with my loved ones as though it is our last day together, so that if anything ever happens to either of us, I’ll have no regrets because deep down, I know that I’ve done everything that I’ve possible could for our happiness.

There’s a Chinese saying that goes “不怕一万,就怕万一” and to translate this in simple English, it means “Rather safe than sorry.” In my context, there will always be a possibility that your loved ones will be taken away from you one day, or you may be gone from this world without a reason.

Some of you may think I’m overthinking or being paranoid, but won’t you rather live life holding your close ones as tight as you can, than to live life in regret if they’re ever gone all of a sudden? Never leave anything up to chance, and always try to settle arguments by the end of the day, because you never know what the next day will bring.

The key message I’m trying to bring across here is not to LITERALLY live everyday like it is your last; but is to not to fear death, or fear that your loved ones will be taken away from you, rather, learn to have a purpose in your life. Know that each and every one of you are unique in your very own way and you mean a lot to the people that love you, and know what purpose you have in this life.

As you start to learn to live everyday like it is your last day, you’ll find yourself more motivated to get up and start doing the things you love, and not laze around waiting for something to happen. Life is short, so don’t waste time snoozing, because if you snooze, you lose.

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For me, having a mentality like that has made me appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given to train everyday – it has given me the extra motivation to get up and train every morning, because there is a purpose in my life. Knowing that life is short, I’m seizing every opportunity that I can and make the most out of it. I’m not saying to train every session like it is the last session you’re going to have, but it’s the mentality to appreciate what you have, and make full use out of it because opportunities like these don’t come easy.

Always remember, nobody can predict the future, or how things are going to pan out in our lives, but if we learn to appreciate the close relationships that we have and always live everyday with our loved ones like it is their last day on earth, we’ll have no regrets (if they’re ever gone one day) as deep down we know that we’ve loved them unconditionally and never once under-appreciated them. With that mentality, you’ll also find a stronger sense of purpose in your life and feel a lot more motivation to do what you truly love, and not leaving anything up to fate or chance.

Always remember, you’re all unique individuals in your own way, so learn to channel your energy into doing the things that you truly love, and let your loved ones know how much they mean to you! Once you’ve done that, you’ll feel a stronger sense of purpose in your live and you’ll live life with no regrets 🙂

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“One day you’ll leave this world behind, so live a life you will remember” – The nights, Avicii

I hope that this post motivates you to chase your dreams and appreciate those that love you. Life is short, so lets get up and start working towards our goals 🙂

 

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Easy ways to keep yourself motivated towards your goals

Swimming for 17 years and counting, my passion for swimming is still going strong. There are times whereby people ask me “how do you still stay so motivated to train after so long?” So here are some things which keep me motivated to train everyday.

1) Always strive for improvement

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You can always strive to create the perfect moment in a race, but no matter how well you race, there will never be a perfect race. Lucky for me, my dad video tapes all my races and through watching my races, I will always look for the mistakes I made in the race and make sure I don’t make the same mistake in the next race again. It could be breathing the first stroke, sprinting too hard for the first 50m in a 400m race, or even pulling an extra stroke into the wall; these are the little things that will make a difference in a race. So every time after watching my videos after my race, it will motivate me to train harder again because there are always those little annoying mistakes that I make in the race which I would want to perfect in my next competition, and that keeps me going.

Look for the little mistakes you make in your best races and I’m sure you’ll be more motivated to train harder as you know that there is always room for improvement.

 

2) Picture your future self

I find this method most effective as you will always picture your future self as an awesome one after working hard, therefore that would motivate you to reach your goals. But I would like to emphasize that it’s not only picturing your future self, but writing it down as well. Don’t be afraid dream big, you may think that it sounds ridiculous to write it down, but trust me it will motivate you.

To give you a clearer idea on how it’s done, here’s what I did 6 months before the SEA Games (It’s a really simple one):

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This is cupboard above my work space which is right in front of my bed, it writes “4:24” and “Be SORE today or SORRY tomorrow.” In case you’re unsure, 4:24 is the goal time that I was aiming for my 400m Individual Medley. Looks really simple, right?

So every morning when my alarm rings at 4:45am, I’ll sit up to see my goals, and that keeps me motivated to get out of my comfy bed to dive in the cold water at 5:30am.

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True enough, SEA Games came and I managed to hit my goal time of 4:24, it felt really unreal, but it goes to show that writing your goals down really helps! 🙂

So start writing your goal down and paste it somewhere that is visible to you, and that will keep you motivated to work hard. Like I said, don’t be afraid to write it down, you’ll be amazed by the difference it can make.

 

3) Have an idol/inspiration

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Ever since young, my idol has been Michael Phelps. I still remember replaying the videos from ALL his races from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games + his interviews. He won 8 gold medals there and therefore every race was exciting, and I really learnt a lot from listening to his thought process through for all his races. So every night, I would spend about 1 hour before bed just to re-watch his races so that I could learn from how he raced and thought. Trust me, that really motivated me to work hard as I really admired his work ethic as an athlete and that made me work hard as well.

I have no idea why I didn’t get bored from watching his videos, but I learnt different lessons from watching the same video everyday.

 

4) Compete against yourself

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“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than the day you were before.” 

The key to keeping yourself motivated is to strive to beat yourself, and beating your personal best, because that is something that we can control. We can’t control what our competitor does, so it’s best we focus on ourselves.

If you ever feel unmotivated to work one day, just know that even the simplest work out beats totally skipping a day of work. You may not be in your best shape but remember – It’s about being better than the day you were before, so just do your best and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment no matter what.

I have to admit, I have days whereby I just can’t move in the pool, everyone would win me no matter how hard I try, but for down days like these, I’ll always remind myself that even the worst workouts are better than not working out at all, so that keeps me going even on my lower days.

So always remember, it’s about self-improvement. As long as you compete against yourself, I’m sure that nothing can stop you from chasing your goals.

5) Hard work will pay off 

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A motto that I live by. Always remember that as long as we work hard towards our goals, it’s only a matter of time before we achieve them. So start believing in yourselves and work hard!

These are ways I use to keep myself motivated towards my goals, hope it helps you too!

 

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How did taking a semester off University feel like

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Contrary to popular belief, I always believe that we should always chase our dreams, even if sacrifices have to be made – Because what’s the point of living life normally when we have a chance to be extraordinary? That was why with the 28th SEA Games that was going to be held in Singapore, I decided to take a semester off school to go full time swimming for that period of time. It was a big leap of faith because that would mean that when my course mates graduate, I’ll be stuck with one more semester left in school. I will definitely feel a little left out when I see all of them graduate before me but that’s the price to pay if I want to achieve my goals. I always believe that in life, we only get one chance in everything, so might as well make full use of it, right?

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Back in the days when I’m still in the Singapore Sports School, my dean (Mr Raymond Mak) told me something that I remember vividly up to this day:

“Sheng Jun, always remember this – studies can wait, but sports can’t. Some day when you grow old you’re going to realize that you just aren’t as fit as you will be as compared to your teenage years, so treasure this opportunity and work wholeheartedly towards your sporting goals, don’t leave any room for regret. Also, don’t worry about falling back a little on academics, because it’s never too old to study after you’ve achieved your sporting goals.” 

His words really inspired me back in my secondary school days and that really changed my mindset of swimming. From that day on I started to set goals which I wanted to achieve in swimming and nothing stopped me from chasing my goals.

This included taking a semester off school to go full time swimming for a few months, and trust me it paid off. If you’re ever thinking about sacrificing studies to chase your dreams, I’m here to give you my experience and hope it would give you a clearer idea on your decision.

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To give you a really brief summary, my usual routine when I’m juggling both swimming and studies would be to wake up at 4:45am, go for morning training from 5:30am – 7am, have breakfast while driving to school, have school from 8:30am – 2pm, rush home for a quick 45minute nap, afternoon training from 4pm – 7pm, dinner at about 7:45pm, followed by having some recreational time then sleep at 10:30pm. It’s honestly quite a hectic schedule to adhere to as I don’t have much social time with my family and friends and I’d be really tired and groggy most of time.

However, with a semester off, I was able to convert all that free time… TO NAP TIME. & I kid you not, that made a whole lot of difference. Instead of the usual 45 minute naps, I was able to sleep for about 3 hours after morning training (which is 2 full sleep cycles!), and that made a lot of difference. I was also able to spend more social time with my family and friends and that made me a happier person in general. I was more refreshed for the training sessions as my recovery rate was much faster due to the crazy naps that I take, and of course I was less groggy. 

Another factor was that competitions in Singapore are always held during the holiday period so that school doesn’t interrupt with the competitions, but here’s the thing – Since it’s right after our semester ends, it would mean that our exams just ended, which also means that most of us are really brain dead from all the mugging and late nights leading up to those semester exams, and that would definitely cost us a little during race day as staying up late does harm the body to a certain extent especially when recovery is key leading up to competitions.

I was checking the schedule for my semester and my final exam paper would be 3 weeks before the SEA Games, and I honestly didn’t want it to risk affecting my performance during the SEA Games, so I decided to just take the semester off. Therefore, I had no exam stress and I was pretty much carefree leading up to the SEA Games.

I have to say that my classmates were really encouraging too! They were complaining how tough the semester was and how they were having weekly examinations (what?!) so they were constantly rushing assignment deadlines and studying for exams simultaneously. So I was really glad I wasn’t experiencing those as it would definitely affect my preparation towards SEA Games.

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When SEA Games came, I knew that I was ready to do well as I have prepared myself to the best of my ability, and nothing could have gone better leading up to it. If you’re wondering if there was added pressure to perform well, I can honestly say there was, but I took it positively and didn’t let it affect me.

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I still remember right before my 400m Freestyle finals, Mr Mak sent me a text message saying, “Sheng Jun! All the best for your 400m Freestyle tonight. My family and I are all behind you for your race.” That really touched my heart as I never thought that he would still keep up with my swimming progress up to date. I wasn’t exactly the best student back in my secondary school days, so for him to still remember me after so many years really motivated me to do well in my race.

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I swam my heart out in the last race of the meet and came in 3rd place behind Welson Sim (MAS) and Jessie Lacuna (PHI). Although I didn’t win the race, I raced to the best of my ability and I was happy that I achieved a personal best time in the race.

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So my SEA Games ended with 1 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze medal – Something that I’ve never achieved in my previous 3 editions of SEA Games, so all the hard work and sacrifice has definitely paid off.

Overall, I would say that taking a semester off school has definitely made a difference in my performance in the recent SEA Games. Taking a leap of faith has definitely paid off and I have no regrets taking a semester off to work towards my goals. Honestly speaking, it was an unforgettable experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Do I feel sad that I’m going to graduate later than my course mates?
It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I think I will be sad when I see them all leave the school.

But was the sacrifice worth it?
Definitely.

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Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith, because success comes when you’re willing to take the first step. I hope my life experience will motivate you to strive towards your goals! 🙂

P.S For those of you that don’t know, I’ll be giving my Singapore swim cap to 1 lucky winner! For more details do check out my Instagram page at about 7:30pm today.

 

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3 swimming competitions in a row, an experience of a lifetime

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I know I haven’t been consistent with blogging recently, but that was because I had 3 competitions back to back for the first time in my life! First it was the Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships, the National training squad then flew to Spain for the Spanish Open, and after Spanish Open 4 of us flew over to Arizona for the Mesa Grand Prix. To be honest, it is by far one of the most mentally and physically strenuous regimes that I’ve been through, but it was definitely an experience of a life time.

The key of these back to back competitions was to try and create the perfect moment and race even when our body feels sore and tired, which is really demanding for any swimmer. Despite that, some of us were still be able to finish with personal best times which really goes to show that you’ll be able to do well as long as you trust yourself!

To add on to the already tough regime, Sergio entered me in 7 events in total during Spanish Open and Mesa Grand Prix, which is more than what I usually swim in a competition. 7 events in 4 days was really no joke, and they happen to be really hard events as well! Just to give you an idea, in a span of 4 days, I swam the 100m Freestyle, 200m Freestyle, 400m Freestyle, 800m Freestyle, 1500m Freestyle, 200m Individual Medley, and 400m Individual medley.

All these events in 4 days, it was mad. I usually swim up to a maximum of 4 events in a competition, but according to Coach Sergio he wanted to “train me to become a man” which worked out pretty well as I’m mentally a lot tougher now which is a good lead up to the upcoming SEA Games in Singapore.

All of us were all drained by the time the competition ended, but we definitely became a lot tougher as a team and individuals. We’ve learnt no matter how tired we may be, we can still step it up when race day comes.

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Swimming aside, our hotel was located just right beside the beach! I had a really peaceful view from my room. I spent most of my evenings at the beach as it was really relaxing and it helped me to ease the stress I had from all the racing that was going on. Of course, since we were so close to the beach, I decided to seize the opportunity to snap some photos! So yeah, going to share some of my favorite shots with you all 🙂

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Also, here are 2 of my favorite photos:

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Cherlyn capturing the moon – Took me many shots to be able to capture this!

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Another shot whereby we were suppose to catch the plane, and this was what happened. After looking at this photo, I guess it’s better if we stick to swimming.

This pretty much sums up Spain, and a week after 4 of us went to Arizona. Arizona was like a desert, it was really dry and all of us had cracked skins and dry throats when we were competing, which made it really hard for all of us factoring in that it was already our 3rd competition. To add on to the already tough climatic conditions, I had to swim the same 7 distance events again, no chance was given to me, I guess that is the price to pay if I want to be a man.

Nonetheless, it was a great experience to be able to see Phelps and Lochte race each other and learn from them.

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I’ll have to thank Zhen Ren for helping me capture this photo with Ryan Lochte! Really happy that I was able to grab a photo with one of the greatest Olympian of all time. This photo was taken straight after his race, and he was still panting when this photo was taken so you can say that he’s effortlessly photogenic.

On a side note, we were really lucky to have a fellow Singaporean family (whose kids are swimmers too) to host us during our stay over there! We went to their house for dinner before the competition started. I’ve learnt an important life lesson during my stay at their house, and I’ll share it with you all a story that Steve (guy on the right) told me.

As an athlete, you’ll always have self doubts about yourself, so often a times you worry about whether you’ll be able to achieve the goals you set yourself out for, but sometimes, it’s about living life until there is a ‘point of no return’, that way, you’ll be able to chase your dreams without anything holding you back.

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So here’s the story:

There was a time whereby Army B tried to invade Army A’s land. Army A was clearly outnumber in resources and manpower. Unconvinced that they could win the war, Army A were thinking of giving up their land and retreating away in the ships they prepared. 

“Burn the ships, we are not going anywhere. This is where we belong.” The General of Army A commanded. 

So with the ships burnt, there were 2 choices left for Army A – To die, or to win the war, because there was no way to escape anymore. So with that do or die mentality, Army A went on and won the war. 

Always remember, when chasing your dreams, don’t think of the what ifs. (What if I don’t make it, will there be a way out? What is my backup plan? Do I give up and take the safe route out?) Because by doing that, you are already setting yourself up for failure. Think of it as a one way street, and take a step at a time, don’t give yourself an excuse to fail, and chase your dreams wholeheartedly. If we all had the do or die mindset, we will be able to reach our goals. I’ll always keep this story in mind every time I have self doubts about myself.

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To sum up this month’s worth of training and competitions, I’m glad to say that I’ve learnt a lot from these experiences, physically and mentally. To be able to learn from the best in the world, that is really an experience of a lifetime.

With 37 days to go with the SEA Games in Singapore, I’m really motivated to keep training hard and hope all the hard work will pay off when the SEA Games starts.

Off to the final stretch of training now!

 

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Forget about your bad races because everyday is a new day [ad]

I’ve always enjoyed watching inspirational videos during my free time, especially when a competition is around the corner. I know SNAG is over but I’d like to share a video which I hope will inspire you to train harder for the next coming competition:

I liked this video a lot as the key message of it is to forget about your bad races, because everyday is a new day, and a new chance for you to prove yourself. I know not everyone did well in this SNAG, but forget about that last bad race, and let’s start training hard for the next competition! I personally had my bad races too and this video has definitely motivated me to race harder when I’m in Spain.

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Never forget about those countless early mornings, the immense physical strain, constantly staring at the blue line at the bottom of the pool, sacrificing so much in hope of realizing that one goal, because believing in yourself is that one final step to seizing the moment.

Ultimately, victory is yours as long as you believe it. Don’t be afraid to dream and never let self doubt rule you out. Yesterday is gone, and today is up for grabs. No one owns today, so take it and let it be yours. Prove to yourself how great you are, never give up!

Adidas sponsors swimmers like Olympic Champions Ian Thorpe (Australia) and Ciecar Cielo Fielo (Brazil), which are inspirational athletes which I look up to. Ian Thorpe was an inspiration to me during my younger days of swimming and and his involvement and contribution to the sport has motivated me to do better. 

This post has been sponsored by adidas, but all thoughts(and/or) experiences are my own. / but concerns my own opinion. 

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There are no perfect moments, we create the perfect moment for ourselves

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It’s been a tough week and SNAG has finally came to an end. There were people who qualified for SEA Games, and there were people who missed, definitely a lot of mixed feelings during this meet but I’ll get to that in my next blog post.

I was really excited coming to this SNAG as my preparation for it was great. I guess there was a lot of pressure being placed on the National training squad and people were expecting instant results, but honestly speaking it’s really hard to see a drastic difference in just 10 weeks of training, we’re all human after all. But what matters most is each and everyone of us swam our hearts out during the meet, and that was all that Sergio wanted.

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I had a rough start during SNAG when I failed to do a personal best time in the 200m Freestyle, it kinda shocked me a little as I had really solid training leading up to it, but you know that’s the nature of swimming – A stroke too early and you don’t quite make it, so everything has to be perfect in order for a good race. However, SNAG was a 6 day competition so I believed that things will get better as the days go by so I moved on quickly from the first race.

Then came the 100m Freestyle, which I did a personal best time in, but it still wasn’t as well as I expected it to be. At this point of time I started to have a little bit of self doubt – Did something go wrong in my preparation? Is this meet over for me? Should I just give up now? 

It’s common for a swimmer to have self doubt, especially when you’re experiencing bad performances. You start to wonder if you’re really that great a swimmer, and tend to doubt yourself on whether you’re still going to race well that meet.

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At this point of time, I can honestly say that I was on the verge of giving up, but a thought suddenly came to my mind – During our taper week, Sergio always emphasized to us that in swimming, there is never a perfect race. We don’t always have to be at perfect form to be able to do well. Think about it, when you did your personal best time, was everything perfect on that day? Honestly, I bet you can’t remember, you just remembered that everything went well that day. So as long as we believe in ourselves, everything is possible.

There are no perfect moments, we create the perfect moment for ourselves. 

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A conversation I had with Sergio before my race – I told him that I was going to create a perfect moment in my race today, despite not feeling at my best.

“Go for it, Pang.”  We both started laughing.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect before the race, but I just kept a positive mindset and believe that I was still able to create the perfect moment for myself.

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With that mindset, I went on to race my last 2 races.

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Things took a turn after I started believing in myself more. Even though I felt really tired before the 400m Individual Medley, I psyched myself up to believe that anything is possible as long as I believed in myself. Sure enough, I did a personal best time in the 400m Individual Medley, and words cannot describe how happy I was. It wasn’t just any personal best time, I’ve never done a personal best time in this event in 5 years! So to be able to achieve a personal best time despite not being at my greatest really proved that our body can really achieve what our mind believes. It was a pretty amazing feeling.

CD7P0947With that same mindset and confidence I went on to compete in the 400m Freestyle 2 days later. Though I didn’t do a personal best time, I’ve done the best I could and that was enough for me.

From this SNAG I’ve learnt that in swimming competitions, it’s not about waiting for the perfect race to come, because it will never happen; rather, it’s about creating the perfect race, because we can’t expect our bodies to always be in tip top condition during every competition. So it’s about believing and trusting in ourselves.

But of course that doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want to do leading up to the competition. Things like sleeping early, getting a balanced diet and visualization are still key elements that contribute to a perfect race.

For the coming SEA Games in Singapore, I’ll be competing in the 400m Invididual Medley, 400m Freestyle and 4x200m Freestyle Relay. Hope everything goes smoothly and I’ll be able to create more perfect moments there.

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers, sponsors, sport science staff, photographers and supporters for making this meet a successful one. This was definitely the greatest SNAG experience I’ve ever had.

It’s the first time that we actually have a commentator commentating on all our races which makes it more intense compared to previous years. Also, there was price money given when meet/national records are broken, which really motivated swimmers to swim harder to beat those records.

With the help of sport science staff, we were also able to maintain proper nutrition, check our blood lactate levels, have massages, ice/hot baths after our races which really sped up our recovery process, especially when it was a 6 day competition.

Shoutout to Adrian Seetho, Nicholas Wan and Red Sports for capturing all these wonderful moments of my races.

Lastly, I would like to thank those who cheered me on during my races! You know who you are and I’m really grateful for that. It really did help me calm down and gave me really good vibes before my races and that’s what swimming should be all about!

With all that said, I’m really thankful for the support that was given to us and I hope it will continue in the future. Swimming is progressively growing in Singapore and I’m really excited to see where Singapore swimmers will be in the following years to come.

 

Next stop – Spain! 

 

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The power of perseverance goes a long way in sports

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I’ve had many ups and downs in my swimming career… the low points including failing to win a medal in 2 consecutive SEA Games and missing the qualification mark in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, all of which were my biggest aspirations as a national swimmer.

However, these setbacks are the reason I am still swimming today. I have always taken each setback to motivate myself to work even harder than ever to achieve what I want out of the sport.

If my journey had been a smooth one throughout my whole swimming career, I could well have retired by now. However, the real question is – is that the true meaning of success? If success comes too easily, chances are that there would be fewer lessons learned from the experience; that is human nature.

Personally, the process of achieving one’s goal is far more important than the outcome, so having a rocky journey may not be that bad after all. It has taught me not to be afraid of falling. So what if we fall? We just have to get back up stronger again after every fall. Only we can limit ourselves from achieving our goals, so we must learn to believe more in ourselves.

Swimming is an unpredictable sport: sometimes the harder you work, the more negative results you might achieve. This happens because of one’s own expectations.  Having worked so hard for something, it is natural for one to expect better results, placing unnecessary pressure on oneself even before the competition starts. I have had my own fair share of bad experiences. I was stagnant with regards to my swim times for 4 years, and that was a very difficult period for me. During those 4 difficult years, I went through a period where I questioned myself about whether I had reached the plateau of my swimming career, and whether it was time to retire from the Sport.

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But throughout those 4 difficult years when I wasn’t doing well in the Sport, my parents never gave up hope on me. They always saw the potential in my swimming career.

“It’s ok Sheng Jun, it’s just a bad week, I’m sure you’ll bounce back in no time. :)”

That was what my dad said to me… for 4 years. I was literally having a “bad week” for 4 years but he never gave up hope on me. He always saw the potential in me though I was clocking really bad swim times. There were even doubters who questioned my ability to my dad but that didn’t stop him from believing in me.

Seeing the amount of faith he had in me, I could not give up on the sport just yet. I needed to show him that I was better than that. But with every competition, I just did worse and worse. It felt like a constant losing battle, but I just kept the faith that “it was just a bad week” and that everything would get better in time.

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So through constant encouragement from my parents, friends and coaches who saw the potential in me, I have persevered through the tough times and I am glad that I did because after 4 years of being stagnant in my swimming career, I have managed to turn things around in the 5th year.

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& Let me tell you this – All the 4 years of agony and despair in the sport… It was worth it when I saw the happiness from those who supported me when I bounced back from my slump.

Through this experience, I’ve learned that as long as you persevere and believe in yourself, you’ll be able to overcome any obstacles that are in front of you.

If you ever feel like giving up, always remember why you started in the first place. Just know that no matter adverse challenges may seem, you’ll be able to achieve them as long as you work hard and not give up.

Nobody knows what the future holds for us, but as long as we keep working hard, we’ll live life with no regrets.

 

Photos used in this blog were taken by Adrian Seetho Photography, check out more of his awesome work here:

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My last swimming competition to end off 2014

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… And I’m finally done a year of competition!

The Singapore National Swimming Championships was last week and I’m having mixed feelings about the meet. Although I did a personal best in a race, I felt that it could have been a better meet if I swam some races differently. But overall couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year.

I ended the meet off with 2 Golds, 2 Silvers and a meet record, which are really good results to end off 2014! Things are really looking good gearing towards the 2015 SEA Games.

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Special shout out to these awesome coaches from SAC who really saw the potential in my swimming career and really motivated me to train hard leading up to the Singapore National Swimming Championships.

I strongly believe a swimmers’ true potential can only be brought out with the help of an experienced coach, and it’s really a privilege to be able to train under these amazing coaches as they have really brought out my potential in swimming.

They could understand my struggles of balancing sports and studies as a student athlete and did not stress me out too much during my exam period.

I remember feeling really guilty when I couldn’t perform during a session leading up to Nationals but Coach Richard didn’t scold me as he knew that the coming exams were stressing me out. He just told me to relax and focus on my exams, and I was really appreciative of that.

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And of course, a special shout out to my dad, whose always been there for me every minute of the competition. He really ensured that I had whatever I needed during the meet – From filming to transport.

I could still remember that I was hungry right before my 400m Freestyle final, and he had to rush to the closest bread shop just to get bread for me within 5 minutes as I was already late for my warm up. He didn’t complain or anything though I kinda rushed him to get bread for me. Instead, he just ensured that I had what was best for me and that was all that he needed. After seeing his commitment and faith in me, I really couldn’t let him down in my 400m Freestyle final which was coming up though I was aching like mad. So I really ignored the fatigue state I was in and swam my heart out in that race.

… And I’m really happy that I was able to do him proud.

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Thanks for all the support dad! Really appreciate it a lot. 🙂

 

Here’s a small feature on the Straits Times with my bro Clement Lim who also made the Qualifying mark for SEA Games: 

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Pang Sheng Jun (left) and Clement Lim both clocked new meet records and also met their respective SEA Games qualifying marks on the final day of the Singapore National Swimming Championships yesterday. Pang Clocked 3min 58.73sec in the 400m Freestyle while Lim touched home in 28.54sec in the 50m breastroke. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

 

Here’s a short post race interview with Voxsports about my thoughts about the 2015 SEA Games after my race:

Well I know I may have over emphasized about how happy I was after my race, but I honestly had no idea that I was repeating myself so much… Must have been a little too happy there hahaha.

The biggest challenge I experienced this meet was racing a 400m Freestyle straight after a 1500m Freestyle race. It was literally less than 12 hours of rest in between those 2 races, and I was really sore right before my 400m race. I have never done this in my entire swimming career before and it had definitely took a lot out of me. But I’m glad that I was still able to make the SEA Games qualifying time despite being really exhausted before my race.

I’m really excited for the coming 2015 SEA Games because I’m certain that we’ll definitely get much more support as compared to the previous SEA Games. Hope I’ll get a chance to race in it and do Singapore proud. 🙂

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Team SAC has been crowned champions with a 10 year win streak, and it’s really an honor and privilege to be a part of this awesome team. 🙂

Even though I’ve only joined SAC in January 2014, everyone had been really welcoming towards me and it has really been the best training culture I have ever experienced in my entire swimming career. Everyone really motivates and pushes one another during every high intensity session which really helped us in clocking personal best in this National trials.

There is no I in TEAM, and even though swimming is an individual sport, Swimfast Aquatic Club competes as a team during this National trials which is why the pressure to do well naturally goes down. It personally does help me to relax and have fun as I know that I have a strong team cheering me on and supporting me during my race.

However, things may change in the year of 2015 with the new National Training Squad established and our team may no longer be the same anymore with different people training at different places.

A whole new group of swimmers will be gathered in the National team training together under coach Sergio Lopez and Gary Tan, which I personally feel excited for it as that may be a big step for Singapore Swimming to progressed into being competitive internationally.

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But enough of over-analyzing… because right now, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy my Christmas break before training resumes again in 2015.

P.S. To those that have supported me and congratulated me after my race, I wanna take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to each and everyone of you for sharing your joy with me after my race. It really motivates me and encourages me to work even harder as I know that I’m being supported wherever I am, so I really appreciate it a lot. You know who you are! 🙂

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All these SNSC photo moments were captured by Adrian Seetho, thanks for all the awesome photos bro! You really helped me relive the happy moments as I saw those swimming photos.

To view more of his awesome work, do check out his Facebook page at Adrian Seetho Photography!

 

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Ignore all doubters, their words hurt, but they don’t matter

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No matter what the situation may be, you will definitely have doubters. People will talk shit just to psych you out; some people just want to see you fall, it’s inevitable. But as long as you know that deep down this is what you want and set your mind to do it, then nothing can stop you from achieving your goals in life.

I still could remember when I was in secondary school swimming School Nationals, being a late bloomer, my competitors were 2-3 heads taller than me. Being the smallest and shortest one out of the 8 finalist, I was definitely intimated by their presence, but that didn’t stop me from giving all I have in that race.

At the reporting area before the race I had a conversation with my competitor which was sitting beside me, he was of a different school, but it was all about friendly competition anyway, right?

“Hey Sheng Jun, what are your plans for this race?” He asked me.

“I’ll just have fun and try my best! It will be hard but hopefully I’ll be able to win it.” I replied.

His reply afterwards left a big impact in my heart.

“Well, Sheng Jun, let me explain an analogy to you. Do you know how the food chain works?” He asked.

“Not sure… Why?” I asked.

“Ok let me explain it to you, so in this race, you’re like a fish, fishes are pretty good right? But unfortunately, I’m an eagle. In the food chain, there’s no way a fish can eat an eagle, an eagle always eats the fish, that’s just how it works in the food chain, same goes for this race which is coming up.” He said.

After hearing about his “analogy” about the race, it really tipped me off so much that I just didn’t want to lose. That really fired me up to win him. How could someone say this to me before a race? I kid you not, I was so mad. So the race begin and I swam my heart out just to beat him.

When the race ended, I immediately turned my head to the score board as it looked like a close race between us. My heart literally sank when I saw that I’ve lost to him by 0.07 seconds. I’ve been out touched by a little, and to be honest I was really really angry.

What made me even more furious was that after the race, he even said “See, Sheng Jun, I told you so.” 

I’m not making things up, THAT REALLY HAPPENED. 

But the main message that I’m trying to bring across here is not about how angry I was, but it was what happened after. Even though I lost that race, that did not stop me from working hard. In fact, it fired me up to work even harder. From that day on wards, I was more motivated to train harder. I constantly reminded myself of the “food chain analogy” and every time I was tired from a training session, that fired me up to not give in to soreness and fatigue.

We can always learn the good points from what seems to be a bad experience. I kinda thank him for talking shit about me during that race, because I hate people that doubt my ability, and that really motivated me work a lot harder just to prove him wrong.

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So over the years I’ve worked hard and we finally competed again in the Singapore National Age Group (SNAG) Championships. I was much fitter and faster at this point of time from all the hard work and most importantly, I was on par on height and strength of my competitors as I already hit puberty at that point of time. I was finally around the same height as my competitors, how awesome is that? They don’t look as intimidating as they were before.

I saw him sitting down at the reporting area as well. I wanted to start a conversation with him, but we were quite far apart due to lane assignments so we didn’t get an opportunity to communicate.

I was really excited to compete in this race as I knew that I was much more well prepared this time around. I’ve been working really hard for this, and all I needed to do in this race was to let my body take over as I’ve already put all the hard work that I needed to.

The race ended and when I turned over to look at the scoreboard, I was well ahead of him. Words can’t describe the amount of satisfaction I had after that race, it just felt so good being able to win someone that once doubted my capabilities, I just could not stop smiling after the race.

After the race he ran up to me, “Hey Sheng Jun! Woah you’ve become so buff now! Still remember when you were like a kid, look at how much you’ve grown. Well done on your race! It’s really a good swim, you’re really fast now, congrats man. Next step, do Singapore proud!” 

I looked at him, “Yeah, remember about that food chain analogy you told me about a few years back? I want to thank you for that, because that was what really fired me to train harder everyday.” 

That was what I initially wanted to say. 

But grudges aside, I was really happy about that race at that point of time. And factoring in that he displayed sportsmanship and congratulated me, I smiled and said, “Thank you.” And we started catching up with each other.

From this life experience I have learnt that in life, hard work will always beat talent no matter what. You have to learn to ignore all your doubters and prove them wrong if you need to. Take their insults as a means to motivate you to work harder towards your goal. Don’t ever give up just because people say you can’t make it.

I understand that my experience was a positive one, but what if I was still not able to win him after all those years of hard work? All I can say is that even if I had lost after those few years of hard work, I will still have no regrets because deep down, I knew that I have given everything to the best of my ability so even if I lost, at least I know I tried. The biggest risk in life, ironically, is not taking one.

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Always remember that in life, people will try to pull you down no matter what, you just have to learn to ignore them because even though their words may hurt, they don’t matter to you. If I had quit when I lost that race a few years back, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So just do what you love doing and never give up! 🙂

Hope my experience will motivate you guys to work hard and ignore those that doubt your capabilities! 🙂

 

“When you truly don’t care what anyone thinks of you… You’ve gotten dangerously close to something called Freedom.” 

 

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How to balance both sports and studies in Singapore

As the saying goes, if there’s a will, there will be a way.

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Many people have been asking me on how I can cope with University in Singapore when it’s so stressful and swimming is taking up a lot of my time. To be honest it isn’t easy, but if you are struggling to cope with school and training demands, I hope this post helps.

Here are some tips that may help you cope with your academics without sacrificing your sporting career.

 

1) Don’t set too high academic expectations 

You can’t always have the best of both worlds, if you want to succeed in one, you have to sacrifice the other a little. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t study or get a fail grade, but you can’t expect to still get straight As if you want to keep training everyday. It would be almost impossible to concentrate on studying after a really tough training session as the amount of fatigue you experience after training just makes you wanna sleep it off.

There are just times whereby you just want to concentrate but you’re just too tired, so as long as you don’t set too high academic expectations, you can just relax and sleep it off.

 

2) Parents should learn to understand your situation 

Your parents should also understand that due to training demands, you wouldn’t be able to get straight As in school. My parents are fully aware of that and understand that I can get really tired from all the training. My parents just told me that as long as my results are not “too ugly to be seen” it is ok.

And overall I guess my grades are not too bad so all is well. 🙂

 

3) Know your optimum study hour 

Dedicate 30minutes – 1 hour of studying time everyday. It will be really surprising how that little amount of time can make a difference. Just imagine this, 1 hour of studying a day totals up to 7 hours of studying a week. 1 hour of studying time/day isn’t too much to ask for!

And as long as you can dedicate 1 hour to study a day, you wouldn’t be too stressed out when exams are near.

 

4) Have a group of friends that are willing to help you out 

I often take Leave of Absence (LOA) from school to go for major games like the SEA Games and Asian Games, and I would be missing class. Missing class can be quite detrimental, especially when there’s a lot of information to learn and process in University. However, I am thankful to have a group of friends that are willing to go that extra mile to help me understand the new theories and concepts that they learn in school.

Some of them even give me their self revision notes to help me save time, and I am really grateful for them. 🙂

 

5) Sacrifice a little of your social life 

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The hardest thing is life is to always say no. The word no may offend people if they take it wrongly as some may feel that you’re just not as keen to see them. But if you want to be able to continue your life as a student athlete, you have to learn to say no at times, even when it’s super hard. Saying no to late nights is definitely a must as rest is key to be able to perform well in school and in swimming for the next day.

So what if you sacrifice a little of your social life? At the end of the day when you’re standing on the podium, it will all be worth it.

 

6) Always have the big picture in your mind 

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Set your goals, write it down, and be determined to achieve them. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals. There will be times whereby you just feel like you want to have that late night out with friends, but as long as you constantly remind yourself of your goals, it would be able to help you overcome that temptation.

 

7) Everyone is facing the same problem as you 

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We swimmers always complain about how stressful school is, and how we are really tired from all the homework and projects that are thrown at us.

But just think about it, if everyone else is facing the same problem and are still training, then what is your excuse? TOUGHEN UP!

 

8) Skip a training session if you need 

7 hours/ week may not be sufficient enough for you to study what you need to study, so taking a morning session off to study a little longer at night would be a wise choice. As long as you know you’ve put in a lot of hard work in training, one morning session off wouldn’t hurt. My coach fully understands my exam demands thus he wouldn’t mind me skipping a session to study as well.

 

9) Love what you are doing 

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Last but not least, the most important thing is to love what you are doing! My passion for swimming is really strong. Honestly, though we train 10x a week, 2.5hours a session, I really enjoy doing it. It has already become a huge part of my life and I seriously would feel lost without swimming. I seriously don’t mind training until the Sun goes down while others are out having fun, because I have goals that I want to achieve in swimming and once I set myself a goal, I won’t stop until I achieve it.

I have also established strong relationships with my training mates so I spend most of my social life here as well!

Swimming really helps keep my mind off school for awhile, it’s like a temporary escape from reality, and I feel at home every time I’m swimming.

We’ll always have breakfast every Saturday to catch up with each others lives and that’s how we slowly build close relationships with each other. To be honest, most of my social life is spent with them as well, and I am really happy with my life. 🙂

 

So if you’re struggling to balance both sports and studies, I hope this post will help you out! 🙂

 

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