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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Here’s to the aspiring Olympians that didn’t make it

This post goes out to all the athletes who fall under the same category as me – the ones who spent countless hours working their hearts out to qualify for the Olympic Games, but ended up missing the games.

You guys have also dedicated your lives for the sport, and did your very best to be an Olympian, so please do not see any less of yourselves. Keep your head up and DON’T GIVE UP!!! Because Tokyo 2020 is just around the corner. 🙂

Having made the B qualification mark for the Olympics, I ended up failing to qualify for the Olympic Games due to the 900 swimmer limit that the IOC has, and I’m sure that many of you swimmers faced the same issue as well.

I’m honestly pretty sad that I’ve failed to make it to the 2016 Olympics, but there is no excuse for not making the Olympics besides not being better than I wanted myself to be.

I actually contemplated on retirement a little – I missed the most prestigious competition that any swimmer can ever aim for, and in 4 years time, I may be too old for Tokyo.

However, I managed to shrug those negative thoughts away from me, which is why I want to share this post with you today. If you are having the same thoughts, please read on and don’t give up just yet.

Watching this years Olympics really reignited the burning fire I had inside of me, and I’m glad to say that right now I’m back up on my feet and training hard towards the next Olympic Games!

In particular, 2 swimmers have inspired me and kept this dream alive – Anthony Ervin and Michael Phelps.

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In the Men’s 50m Freestyle, the favorites going in were Florent Manaudou and Nathan Adrian. Ervin retired from the sport for about 8 years before his passion for the sport came back again, and had some pretty bad swims which lead to many doubters. I remember watching the race and my friend and I wanted Ervin to win, because we knew his story, and he’s been through a lot of tough times – from attempting suicide from overdosing tranquilizers to riding at dangerously high speeds on motorcycles when high on cocaine. Realizing he failed to kill himself, he felt like God had reborn-ed him, in a way. Age was also a factor when it came to this competition – Most swimmers in the finals were at their mid 20s while Ervin was 35, so he was definitely not the favorite coming into this race.

Ervin ended up winning the race with a 21.40 seconds, just 0.01s ahead of the favorite Florent Manadou. And you can roughly picture how much my friend and I were screaming with excitement seeing a “1” sign beside Anthony Ervin’s name.

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“It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”

I always thought that Phelps was living the life with 22 Olympic Medal tally (28 after this year’s Olympics). Many of us didn’t know that he almost ended his life! He had no self-esteem and self worth which almost made him end his life. But he bounced back to win another 5 Gold medals and 1 Silver medal in this Olympic Games. How awesome is that?

Honestly, who would have thought both of them would return to the sport at this age in their career? They both had something in common – the burning passion and drive for swimming, and the unfinished goals which they want to achieve in the sport. If either of them had retired earlier, we wouldn’t have experienced such an amazing feat at this Olympic Games.

For them to overcome such great obstacles just proves that nothing can stop you from achieving your goals – all you have to do is to believe in yourself. If they overcame the greatest obstacles in their lives, then we can too!

Overall, their experiences have made me believe that as long as we set our mind up towards our goal and chase them wholeheartedly, age is merely just a number. There’s really nothing that can stop us from achieving our goals, except the person in the mirror. So cut the negativity, and start believing!

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I’ve got my eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and I’ve already started training for it. There’s so much more motivation now as I know that deep down, my Olympic dream is still alive.

Think about it, 4 more years of hard training is merely 5% of my entire life time (that’s if I survive up to 80, of course), so it will definitely pay off when I look back at my swimming career, knowing that I’ve made it to the biggest milestone of swimming.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the constant support through my swimming journey. Those really encouraging messages you’ve sent, knowing that I’m upset that I failed to make the Olympics this time around; that really spurred me on to continue pursuing my dreams. I may not have the time to reply all each and everyone of you, but please know that I’ve seen all of them and I’m really grateful for all your unwavering support! I sincerely hope that you too will be able to achieve what you set yourself out for one day, and if you do, let me know as well. 🙂

In 4 years time, I will only be 28 years old, which is 3 years younger than Phelps’s current age and 7 years younger than Ervin’s current age, so there is really no excuse for me to retire just yet.

For those who are aspiring athletes who didn’t make it to Rio this time around, do continue your quest for the Olympic dream and don’t give up! The dream is never over unless we stop trying.

And if you ever think of giving up, just remember why you started your sporting career in the first place.

All in all, I hope this post inspires the aspiring Olympians to not give up and continue chasing that Olympic dream with me. We’re in this together, so onward Tokyo 2020!

Hopefully when I look back at this post at year 2020, I can gladly say that I’ve made it. 🙂

 

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Congratulations to Chiropractic care for their 120th Anniversary! (spon)

I know I’m a little late on this, but I would just like to take this opportunity to commemorate the 120th anniversary since Chiropractic care was introduced! It traditionally happens on the 18th of September, so I’m actually a little late.

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To commemorate their 120th anniversary, I would like to share a little back story of how Chiropractic care came about:

“On September 18, 1895, in Davenport Iowa, Dr. DD Palmer gave the first chiropractic adjustment to a janitor named Harvey Lillard.  Harvey had lost most of his hearing 17 years earlier after hearing a popping sound in his neck while he was scrubbing with his brush. Upon examining Harvey, a bone was determined to be out of place in the janitor’s neck. Dr. Palmer decided to move the bone back into place to see if that would help. This primitive first chiropractic adjustment resulted in Harvey getting his hearing back, and the profession of chiropractic was born.”

Also, here are some success stories of how chiropractic has helped many. So if you’re contemplating on whether to try out Chiropractic care, you may want to check this video out. 🙂

My take on Chiropractic care – it has worked for me (you can read about my story here), and I strongly believe that if you have any spine related problems, it will help you too.

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I would like to thank Chiropractic first for having me on board as one of their brand ambassadors. It has always been a dream to be a brand ambassador of something I strongly believe.

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Looking back at how slanted my spine was when I was young, and how much I grew over the years under Chiropractic care, I feel really grateful for how much Chiropractic care has changed my life, and of course to the Chiropractic first group for taking care of me for so many years. We’ve definitely established a really strong relationship which I treasure a lot.

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It is a routine now to get adjusted before every major competition, and Dr Bryan laughs at how superstitious and paranoid I get just to do well during competitions. We even created a special “Swimmer’s Chiropractic Adjustment Routine” which is a really specific adjustment which is catered to fully benefit my swimming performance after the adjustment, so it may not be superstition after all!

All in all, I want to congratulate Chiropractic care for their 120th Anniversaty. Hope to see more people taking the route of natural healing! 🙂

 

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How I Kept Myself Motivated to Swim as a Kid

Hi Sheng Jun, I am a big fan. Could you post inspirational stories of yourself to motivate myself and other young inspiring swimmers to continue pursuing their goals? – A swimmer from CSC.

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Initially I was afraid of the pool when I started swimming at 6, but with time and encouragement from my parents and a childhood coach, I had the courage to put my head in and start swimming.

As a kid, my parents always believed in enjoying the sport, so whenever I did not want to train, they would not force me to. There were even days that I told my parents I wanted to stay home and play Pokemon on my Gameboy and they allowed me to.

What is the rush of being the best in your age group now? Medals can wait, the main focus right now is about building unforgettable friendships and to have fun.

 

It’s About Enjoying The Sport 

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I remember once taking 3 days off swimming and having a whole chocolate cake right before a competition and I still did a personal best time. Surprising isn’t it? The key to swimming success is not always about staying focused and analyzing the race, it is actually all about having fun.

From that day, every time I had a competition, I would be rewarded with chocolate cake either by my coach or parents before my race. That was the life!

From here we can conclude that the secret to performing well is to just enjoy the whole process, to enjoy the competition. Do not stress yourself out too much, it will only have a negative impact on your performance.

 

A Setback in my Swimming Career

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Lucky for me even when I was swimming for leisure and fun, I was still winning medals, which really motivated me to train much harder. However, there came a time when the move focused I became, things started to fall apart for me.

I was training harder but ironically my swimming results became worse. The reason behind my fall was not because I was over thinking my races or anything, it was just that every guy in my age was going through puberty. I was a late bloomer so I was racing against guys that were 2-3 heads taller than me. It was as good as a boy racing teenagers. I’m not exaggerating.

I felt really discouraged to lose over and over again to those bigger guys so I told my parents that I wanted to quit swimming. Imagine training harder than you have ever trained before and still losing, how is that worth it? Obviously my parents did not allow me to quit, and told me that “this is just a low phase in your life, be strong. Remember telling us that you want to be an Olympic Champion? Even champions have their low moments in their sporting career. Trust us you will get past this in no time.”  You have no idea how angry I was at them at that point of time when I could not quit swimming.

What was worse was that I was far behind on my school work due to all the swimming training and I was often canned for this by my form teacher, Mrs Lim.

“SHENG JUN, QUIT SWIMMING LA, WHERE CAN SWIMMING BRING YOU? YOU CANNOT EVEN COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK AND YOU STILL WANT TO SWIM?” This statement was followed by a few strokes of the cane on my hand with a ruler. Teary eyes for me every time I was caned and I still do not know why I continued swimming. I feared school as I was caned by my teacher, and she was the person I feared most in life.

Even though there were so many things going on in my life at that period of time, I still continued training hard as I trusted my parents’ decision.

 

Have a Goal in Mind, and Never Give Up No Matter What Happens

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It was only after 2 years of hardship that I finally grew (well just a little) and started winning medals again. My happiest moment when I was a kid was winning the Overall Champion for the ACS Swim Carnival. (Photo above)

As I collected the Overall Champion award, a familiar voice shouted from the crowd, “Sheng Jun!!!! Well done!” I immediately turned at the direction of where the voice was coming from. To my surprise, it was Mrs Lim!

After I saw her she waved at me with a smile, and she was standing beside 2 other teachers. “That is my student!” She said proudly with a smile to the 2 teachers.

All the fear, the hard work, and the amount of sacrifice over 2 years was worth the moment I saw the smile on her face. You have no idea how much happiness I felt at that moment of time as I had been through so many tough times to the point where I was going to break.

That was the time where my passion for swimming grew strong and I started to live by my ‘Hard Work Pays Off’ motto and kept training hard from that day. Never give up on your passion and goals no matter how impossible or hard they may be, because all your hard work will pay off one day, it is only just a matter of time. You are in control of your own life, do not let others tell you otherwise. Just take me as an example, if I had given up when I was a kid, I would not be where I am today.

 

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I have come a long way and it is amazing how much I have grown since, but nothing has changed. My passion for swimming has still remained strong and I will keep training hard until I achieve the goals I set myself out for.

It is obviously very different now in the National Team, but it is a whole new experience. I will never forget the friendships made back then when I was a kid. Always remember to have fun, and you will realize how much more meaningful the sport becomes!

I am really thankful to my parents for the constant encouragement during my lowest points in my swimming career. Your family will always be by your side through the darkest moments of your life and I am really lucky to have them.

So, this is my story. Hope it inspires you and your friends to train even harder and continue to pursue on your goals! 🙂

 

Have a question as well? Feel free to email me at hello@pangshengjun.com or drop me a question on Ask.fm 🙂

pang sheng jun

 

pang sheng jun

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Hard Work Pays Off

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