The story of my life

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You can tell that I really hated the pool when I was a kid. I’m the small boy in the middle, of course. My sisters definitely enjoyed the water more than I did. In case you were wondering, I have 2 sisters – Joelle (extreme left) and Sijia (extreme right). I still remember dreading the pool when I was a little kid as I just didn’t like to put my head in the pool, I wasn’t sure why, but I think I was afraid that sharks may eat me when I put my head down. However, my parents were always patient with my swimming progress and never once forced me to dip my head in the pool.

My sisters, on the other hand, were really fast learners. So you could imagine me playing in the baby pool while they were already training in 50m Olympic sized swimming pools.

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“Dad!!! GET ME OUTTA HERE!” 

… Here’s more proof to illustrate my fear of the water.

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To be honest, I was more geared towards land based activities… like horse riding. (Nah, just joking) but you can obviously tell that I was enjoying myself in these photos. Look at that boss like facial expression on top. Ridin’ da horse likka boss.

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But we all know that horse riding wasn’t a career path to choose from at that point in time when I was a kid as it just isn’t realistic to take horse riding as a sport, so I had no choice but to overcome the fear of the water.

Another reason was also because the doctor recommended swimming to me due to my asthmatic conditions assuring that swimming would help with my breathing, so that gave me the motivation to learn swimming.

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Since then, my journey as a swimmer had officially begun.

Unlike many others, learning to swim didn’t come naturally for me, I had to learn it the hard way. Putting my head in the water was one of my greatest fears when I was a kid, so I spent most of my time hanging by the lane lines while others were already swimming laps. Because of that, I was actually being made fun of by the guys and girls who were in the same swimming class as me. They would laugh at my inability to put my head down in the water and that really made me feel inferior as compared to them. I remember trying to find excuses to skip training as I just didn’t like being made fun of. Nobody likes being made fun of and that made me really sad as a kid.

However, my parents and sisters found out about it and told me to take the insults and comments in a positive way to motivate myself to work even harder. And sure enough, I did.

Obviously it didn’t feel good when people were throwing nasty comments at me, but I was able to take it with a pinch of salt and learn that everyone has a different starting point in their career, so every small step that I take will be a step closer to becoming a great swimmer. My sisters also guided me along the way so that made me enjoy swimming much more.

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In order to overcome the fear of water, one of the methods was to learn to swim Backstroke first instead of Freestyle, which worked out well for me. (P.S. Backstroke is my worst stroke today, the irony…) 

So after swimming many many many laps of Backstroke, I’ve came to a realization that my head was technically dipped in the pool and no sharks ate me during those many laps of Backstroke, so that gave me the courage to try on Freestyle.

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Overtime, I caught up with my teammates and my passion for the sport grew even bigger when I saw that my swimming timings were improving tremendously. People stopped making fun of me when they saw the amount of progress that I have made and guess what? We all became really good friends! With that, the swimming pool became a place for me to escape reality and have fun for a bit. I didn’t dread the pool as much as before as I’ve overcame the fear of water and I enjoyed swimming a lot. In fact, I couldn’t get enough of the pool as I was just a really energetic kid!

However, my sisters stopped swimming way before me. They excelled more in their studies so they decided to focus more on academics instead. On the other hand, I chose swimming over studies as I was really an active kid in general and swimming was a way for me to channel all that energy in a positive way.

Even though I wasn’t the best swimmer when I was young, but my parents always had ways to keep me motivated in the sport. They would enter me in novice meets whereby the competition was much easier to win but even so, I struggled to win a bronze medal. But hey, a medal meant a lot to me at that point in time, because it showed progress and that was all I ever wanted. Although it was a bronze medal for the novice swim meet, my parents were still really proud of me.

To give you an idea on how happy there were, they celebrated my victory even more than when they celebrated during SEA Games, so you can imagine how lousy I was at that point of time, but they never once gave up on me.

To be honest, they have been the reason why I’ve been working so hard in my life, seeing the smile on their faces every time I swam a good race has kept me going for so many years.

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So these little baby steps slowly brought me to where I am today, from a Novice meet bronze medallist, I strived to become a Novice meet gold medallist, and after that I went on to try out age group meets (which I usually finished 8th-10th positions) but I was already happy to finish top 10 because I was so used to losing my whole life so that didn’t stop me from training harder and aiming higher after each race.

Of course, I didn’t let all the trash talk from others stop me from achieving my goal. There were people who didn’t trust my abilities, labelling me as an inferior swimmer as compared to the ‘better ones’, but I was already immune to all the doubters as I had to deal with them when I was a kid, so being a slow learner has its perks after all.

This goes to show that in life, whether it is a good or bad experience, everything happens for a reason. We all have to believe in the journey and keep working hard. If I have had a smooth sail throughout my entire career, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with setbacks the way I deal with it today.

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It’s really nice to see how much I’ve progressed over the years, this goes to show that hard work will always pay off.

Looking back at my life now, I feel thankful that I wasn’t born a winner, I’ve learnt it the hard way, and it has taught me an important lesson in life –

It is perfectly normal to fail, because failing is part and parcel of life and through failing, you’re actually taking a step closer to success by learning from your bad experiences. And trust me, success will always be sweeter when it is hard earned, so don’t ever give up!

Hope my life story will inspire you to soar to greater heights!

 

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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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My post SEA Games 2015 Experience – Hard work has paid off

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With a blink of an eye, the 2015 SEA Games is over. I’m really having withdrawal symptoms now and I can’t believe that everything just flew by so quickly. It kinda feels like it was just yesterday that I was still 30 days away from SEA Games. Overall, competing in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore is by far the best competition experience of my life, and if I could turn back time, I would want to relive this moment again for sure.

The Singapore swimming team won a total of 23 Gold medals, surpassing the record of 21 Gold medals set many many years ago, and I feel really privilege to be part of this awesome team. This was by far the tightest team that I’ve been on and everyone has always had each others backs during the games, and that made a lot difference especially during the later days of the games when all of us were getting tired.

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I personally performed at my best during the 28th SEA Games, but I can honestly say that it wasn’t solely because my own hard work. I’ll have to credit my success to the endless amount of support from family, coaches, friends, supporters and sponsors. They were the ones that gave me the extra motivation to strive for greater results, and I couldn’t thank them enough.

I ended off my SEA Games with 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal – which is why some of my friends call me the rainbow boy. After 4 SEA Games, I was finally able to clinch an individual Silver and Bronze medal for Singapore. However, it’s not the medals that I will remember in the future, it’s the process of getting those medals which really mean a lot to me. To be honest, winning those medals were exceptionally hard for me because I had mental obstacles coming into this SEA Games – Being into 3 editions of the SEA Games, I’ve never won an individual medal at all, so I’ve kinda set mental obstacles that winning an individual medal was practically impossible for me.

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Thankfully, with the help of my coaches, parents and supporters, I was able to get out of that mental state and win individual medals for Singapore after 6 years of trying. You can read about my story on Yahoo news over here: Pang Sheng Jun ends wait for first individual SEA Games swimming medal

Of course, the process wasn’t easy, it took me quite a lot of courage and effort to get out of the ‘slump’ which I was in, and I am glad that I had a strong support group to get me out of my negative state.

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Coach Sergio knew that I was mentally weak due to my past experiences, so he had ways to help tackle my mental obstacles, he says that it’s ‘training me to become a man’. Here’s one of the most memorable experience I had during my training session:

“Alright guys, 6x100m warm down and we’re done. We leave on the top.” 

All of us put our goggles on and prepared to go.

“Not you, Pang, you stay right here.” 
“For you, 5x400IM on 5:45, you leave on the next top.” 

I started laughing because of how ridiculous it sounded.

“You think I’m joking? You’re leaving on the next top.” 

I laughed more because I still didn’t believe him.

“30 seconds…” 
“… WTF Sergio are you serious?!” At this point in time, I wasn’t smiling anymore.
“Yes of course, I told you I wasn’t joking, 10 more seconds…” 

I had no choice but to put my game phase on and start on my 5x400m set.

“Pang you done?” 
“…Yes” I was panting heavily after the set.

“Ok, 200IM all out, we’re leaving on the top, you have a minute rest.” 

I was dreading the set as I was already exhausted, but at that point of time I was too tired to even talk anymore so I just put my head down and gone for my 200IM all out.

Well guess what? I did pretty well in that all out effort. It was actually a personal best time for training and I just couldn’t believe what just happened. I even double checked the pace clock to see if Sergio was lying to me, but he wasn’t. It’s true that I actually set a personal best training time, and that was an amazing feeling.

This set really made me believe in what my body is truly capable of and it gave me so much more confidence for the SEA Games.

“Sergio, thank you so much for giving this set to me, though it was tiring, it was definitely worth it. I feel a lot more confident now, I know I’m capable of much more.”

“No worries Pang, you may think I’m picking on you, but I’m not. Trust me, I like you as a person, but I’m training you to become a man.” He winked at me.

So you can roughly imagine the training I was going through leading up to the SEA Games, and with that, I became a much tougher and confident person entering the games.

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The Games started off well when we won comfortably in the 4x200m Freestyle relay, whereby I teamed up with Joseph Schooling, Danny and Zheng Wen to win a Gold medal for Singapore. It definitely gave me a huge confidence boost after winning the Gold medal, but that still didn’t remove the fear of not winning in my individual event.

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The next event was the 400m Individual Medley, and if you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that that is the event which I dread most as the 400m IM is probably the most physically demanding event for any swimmer. We didn’t have to swim heats in the morning as it was straight finals, but I still went to warm up in the morning to prepare for finals which was in the evening.

I dived into the pool and I kid you not – I was feeling like a rock in the pool. It was legitimately the worse day of my swimming career and I just couldn’t feel my strokes properly. I didn’t know what I did wrong because I slept well the night before my race, and I basically did everything I could to be in the best shape but it didn’t seem to be working. At this point of time I got really desperate as nothing seemed to be going my way, so I did something which was really stupid – I got up on the blocks, dived, and did a 400IM for time.

My experience? I touched the wall with a time of 5 minutes 2 seconds (5:02) and I was exhausted. To give you an idea on how bad 5:02 is, I have a personal best time of 4:28 and I could easily hold 5×400 IMs on 5:02s on a good day, so you can imagine the amount of stress I was feeling at that point of time, I just couldn’t believe how much of a low my body was hitting.

I came up to the pool and told coach Gary about my situation.

“What should I do G? (Gary) I feel like shit, should I do some core? What do I do to get my form back? I am honestly lost now.”

Gary just told me to relax, warm down and get out of the pool.

I got out of the pool and went back up to the spectator stands. When Coach Sergio saw me, he immediately told me to see him.

“Pang, why the hell did you do a 400IM for time for? Did I ever tell you to do something like that before?”

“No coach… But I just wanted to get my water feel back.”

“And what, you think a 400IM for time is going to get you your feel back?! Why are you doing this?”

I then explained to him that I’ve never performed well in an individual event for SEA Games before, and I just couldn’t see myself doing it in the finals.

“You know what? If I could knee you right now, I would, but I don’t want to injure you before finals tonight. Let me tell you this, you are going to swim well in the finals tonight and you’re going to go below 4:25. If you don’t, I’m going to kick your a**, trust me.”

To go below 4:25 was more than 3 seconds of my personal best time, that was pretty hard to believe at that point in time.

“How many 400IMs have you done in training before? Doing a 200m IM all out for time and setting a personal best, did you feel like shit that time as well? You were still able to step it up isn’t it? So how is this 400IM different?” 

“You have to believe in yourself, stay the course, and do your best. Trust me you’re going to achieve great results.” 

After his lecture, it reminded me of the tough times I had during training and that gave me my confidence back for the finals.

“Sorry about that Sergio, you’ll watch me do well tonight.”

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The finals came and when my name was called, the stadium echoed with cheers that were for me. At that very moment, I felt a strong sense of National pride. All the negative thoughts just left my mind and all I wanted to do was to do all my fellow Singaporeans proud. With that amount of support that I was having, I just couldn’t let them down. This is our pool, our home, and I’m not giving up at the very last moment before my race.

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When I was swimming my finals, I could literally hear the stadium cheering for Zheng Wen and I. In my whole swimming career, I have never heard such loud cheers when I was swimming. Swimmers usually aren’t able to hear the cheers coming from the crowd as the sound of waves usually blocks any sound that is coming from the surroundings, but during my 400m race, the cheers from the crowd was so loud that I could even hear them when I was swimming in the water. That definitely gave me the edge when I was at the final stages of my race. Just to emphasize on how much of a difference it made, I had a strong surge of adrenaline coming into the last 100m of my race:

Your cheers really made the difference when it came to this race, and I’m glad that I was able to win my first individual medal after 6 years of training.

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Words can’t describe how I was feeling at this point in time, it was a strong mix of emotions – I was relieved that I finally won an individual medal for Singapore, and with the scoreboard showing “2nd place” beside my name, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only that, I touched with a time of 4:24.81, which was the time that Coach Sergio predicted I would go, the feeling was just surreal.

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To touch 1st and 2nd for Singapore was a dream that Zheng Wen and I had coming into this SEA Games, and to be able to achieve our dream meant a lot to me. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

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With that, my curse of no individual medals for 6 years was broken, and I carried on with that confidence to win another bronze medal for Singapore in the 400m Freestyle.

I could feel the amount of happiness that my parents and sisters were feeling after my races and that really made my whole SEA Games experience worthwhile. Ever since young, I’ve always strive to do my parents proud in whatever I do and seeing their happy faces makes me happy too. They’ve been through the tough times with me and I’m glad that they never gave up hope on me. I wouldn’t have been where I am today without their support.

This concludes my 2015 SEA Games experience. Great memories have been forged in this meet and it will definitely be remembered for a lifetime. I must say that I have dreaded the lectures and tough sessions from Coach Sergio and Gary at first, but I’m happy to say that all of it has finally paid off. I’ve mature a lot as a swimmer and person and I’m grateful for those who believed in me.

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I hope my experience will inspire anyone whose going through a tough phase in your life. Anything is possible as long as we believe in ourselves. Always remember that no matter how hard or low your life may be, God always has a plan for you and everything happens for a reason. You have to believe in the process and stay the course. My swimming career wasn’t a smooth sail but I’m glad that I pulled through the tough times. Trust me, all the pain and hard work was worth it.

For those who never gave up in me, thank you so much.

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To Adrian Seetho
Thank you for being there for us throughout the whole of SEA Games to capture all these wonderful memories. Every photo holds a significant meaning to me and I’m glad that you were able to capture them so that these moments will never be forgotten. 

 

Link to my races: 
Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay 
Men’s 400m Individual Medley
Men’s 400m Freestyle

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Victory Ceremony
Men’s 400m Individual Medley Victory Ceremony
Men’s 400m Freestyle Victory Ceremony

 

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Dealing with the pressure of expectations

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With just 24 days to go to the start of SEA Games, pressure’s definitely building up across all the sportsmen who are taking part in the coming games. Even though this is my 4th SEA Games, I’m honestly starting to feel the pressure building up as it’s home ground and also Singapore’s Jubilee year. However, don’t get me wrong, pressure’s good to push me to give my best during the games, but too much pressure isn’t a good thing.

I personally handle the pressure in a positive way to spur me on during race day, and you can do it too! In any case I hope my way of dealing with the pressure of expectations would help you deal with yours too.

 

1) Control the controllable

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When facing the media, questions like “Who is your biggest competitor?”, “What do you want to achieve out of these games?”, “How many Gold medals are you aiming for?” are unavoidable and will always put you on the spot. However, as long as we are able to take their questions in a positive way, it wouldn’t affect us.

Always remember, your biggest competitor is yourself and as long as you do your best, you will have no regrets. Results are something that nobody has control of, so instead of focusing on the end result, we should focus on enjoying the process – like executing our race strategy well and taking good care of ourselves before race day, because these are things that we are in control of. We do not have control of how our competitors do on race day so that is something that we should ignore. If we focus too much on our competitors, we would tend to add unnecessary pressure on ourselves which may be detrimental to our own performances, so stop doing that.

To ensure that you are controlling the controllables, set goals that are specific to yourself, like timings that you wish to achieve instead of who you want to win in the race. In that way, you will stay true to your race plan and not panic when you see a competitor ahead of you.

With that said, as long as we focus on the process, we would be able to let go of ourselves and do well.

 

2) Enjoy the process

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Honestly, after being in 3 SEA Games, I can say the best memory wasn’t about standing on the podium and receiving my medal. Yes, I was happy that I won a medal, but that wasn’t the most memorable thing that happened. What was most memorable for me was the endless conversations and encouragements I had with my roommates during the competition. We either had heart to heart talks or mega trash talks before our races and those are the reasons why we are so closely bonded today. When a team is bonded closely together, it doesn’t feel like an individual effort anymore. That is because you know that when you’re behind the starting blocks, you have your teammates who will be cheering you on through your whole race, and trust me it’s a totally different feeling knowing that you got your teammates behind your back.

As the saying goes, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’, so as long as we can create a strong team identity, we will forget about our own stresses and have a really strong team.

Medals will rust, but friendships would last a lifetime.

 

3) All the hard work has been done

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There is honestly nothing extra that we can do now that would change our performances drastically. All the work has been done months leading up to it, so it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the games. Since you have been working hard for months, it’s time to trust yourself and let your body take over during your race. My best races have been done when I didn’t care much about it, I just let my body be in control instead of my mind, and let go of everything that’s holding me back and race my heart out.

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A phrase I constantly remind myself is to “Let go, and let God.” As long as you prepared to the best of your ability, leave the rest up to God, because if you already done your best, God will do the rest.

 

4) Ultimately, everyone wants the best for you

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As we all can expect the stadiums would be pretty much filled up when the games begin, and this time around it will be filled with fellow Singaporeans who will be cheering you on during your race. It does feel good to be cheered on, but there will definitely be added pressure to perform as they would want to see you win.

But with that said, don’t let their cheers affect you in a negative way, take it in a positive way. Just know that our supporters just want the best for us, and even if we fail to deliver, I’m sure that they will always be there for us anyway.

Also, sports is always a shared effort, so do remember that you are not the only one that is nervous. Your parents and coaches will be equally as nervous too! But always keep in mind that they’re like that simply because they care a lot and want the best for you, so we should take their care and concern in a positive way instead of pressuring ourselves to do well. If they’re stressing you out a little, it only shows that they care a lot about you.

Ultimately, everyone just wants us to be happy so we should!

Winning is beyond our control and if the expectation to win is high, our disappointment would be higher if we fail to win. No matter what, we have to set realistic expectations of the games and enjoy the whole process of it!

 

With all that said, I’m just going to enjoy the whole process, give it my all for this coming SEA Games and I’m sure that all of my hard work will pay off.

I wish all athletes who are taking part in the coming SEA Games the best of luck! 24 more days, let’s make it a memorable one. 🙂

 

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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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Meet the Singapore Swimming Team at Kallang Wave Mall on Saturday 14 March

Hey guys!

There will be an official campaign launch of the Singapore Swimming Team this Saturday, 14th of March, at the Kallang Wave Mall Atrium! Our head coach Sergio has always wanted the Singapore Swimming team to have a team identity so we’ll be officially announcing our team identity during this event! Do drop by as I’m sure it will be a great event.

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Everyone from the various aquatic sports (swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming) will be there so feel free to mingle and chat with us! We’re really friendly so don’t worry. There will be photographers there so feel free to take photos with us as well!

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I personally feel that this event is a great opportunity to bond and bring us all closer together as one Singapore in preparation for the upcoming SEA Games.

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I’ve always wanted to know our supporters on a personal level so this event is really a great opportunity for us to thank you guys for all the support towards us!

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Athletes, officials or supporters, we will always be one Singapore. Each one of us can play our part to fly our flag up high.

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So yes, do save this date and show us your support by dropping by Kallang Wave Mall Atrium this Saturday at 12pm. We’ll create history this Saturday as we announce our Singapore Swimming identity so do come down to join us to experience this moment. We’ll see you there!

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Life of a swimmer in the National training squad

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We’re finally done with week 4 of our training at the National training squad and training is starting to get really intense. Well, for a picture proof, here’s how tired we really are:

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Here’s all of us maximizing our rest times even at the pool before the session starts, and yes, it was a really hard session that day.

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I honestly like the fact that we’re progressively increasing the intensity as the weeks go by, it has really allowed me to adapt to the new training program as I usually fall sick if the pace gets too fast for me.

So here’s an idea on how things are going at the National Training Center:

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10 new guys have joined us in the National training squad so we have a bigger team now. This means that we have more pacers to train with and push one another which is great. These guys have joined us 2 weeks ago and are slowly adapting to the new training regime as well.

I’m proud to say that the team is having a stronger bond as the weeks go by and to me, that is the key aspect to a successful team.

Clubs aside, we’re all one family now. 

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So back to our daily regime, Sergio’s really strict about having good time management. For example, we have to always be ready at the pool deck 5 minutes before the actual training time. This really trains our discipline because it’s already so hard to reach the pool at 5:30am sharp, and reaching 5 minutes earlier than usual just made things so much harder. Imagine being on deck at 5:25am, though it only means sleeping for 5 minutes less, it means A LOT to a swimmer. Every minute of sleep is precious to a swimmer, especially when it’s so early in the morning.

Also, when Sergio says go when the clock hits 0, you better go when the clock hits 0 or you’ll see the bad side of him. He can be really cheerful and motivational but when it comes to discipline, you wouldn’t wanna see the bad side of him. So sometimes even when I’m not done wearing my cap I’ll just dive in first, and adjust my cap after I’m done with the warm up. (which explains the photo above) I’d rather warm up with a badly worn cap than see the bad side of Serg HAHA.

Overall, that’s a good thing because if discipline is kept in place at all times, nobody would dare to swim sloppily even when they are tired.

But hold your horses, before you think that it’s scary training at the National training squad, it actually isn’t at all. There’s always a bad side to each person, but that is done to ensure that discipline is in order at all times.

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How often do you see swimmers laughing when a coach explains a main set to them? Never.

This photo was taken when Sergio was explaining the main set to us, and all of us started laughing though it was a really hard set. He has a way to cheer us up when when a super tough set awaits us, and that has really motivated me to push on and not give up before the set even starts.

I can’t exactly remember what happened, but I just know that he made a really tough main set sound easy, but of course it wasn’t easy to complete AT ALL – but we nailed it in style. 

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For the coaching aspect, Sergio will be consistently whistling during the main set to spur us on when we get tired, and his whistles are REALLY LOUD – loud to the point that you can even hear him whistling when your head is underwater. The whistles really work when we’re tired, especially during the last 25m of the set, which matters most during a race.

On the other hand Gary will be constantly motivating us during the main set. He always has a way to motivate everyone when we get tired, and he motivates each and every swimmer differently as we all respond well to different ways of motivation and Gary knows it.

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And of course, they congratulate us all when we nail the set, which we do most of the time.

The combination of these 2 coaches make the National squad an excellent environment to train in, and I’m sure that the other swimmers feel the same way as well.

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Sweat, sore muscles and tired faces from the countless hours in the pool – that’s the amount of sacrifice that each swimmer is going through gearing towards the 2015 SEA Games.

For what’s worth, I’d rather have a bucket of sweat than to shed a tear during the SEA Games.

All the hard work will definitely pay off when the time comes.

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We don’t know what the future holds, but whatever the results may be, I’m just glad to be part of this awesome team.

 

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I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adrian Seetho for capturing these wonderful milestones of our swimming career! It wouldn’t have been such a clear illustration of our lives at the National training squad without these pictures, so I’m really glad he took it for us.

You can check out more of his photography here:

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First week of training done with the National Training Squad

I’m finally done with our first week of training in the OCBC Aquatic Center with the national team! It’s always been one of my dreams to be able to train together with the best swimmers in Singapore so it’s really a privilege to be able to train with these guys.

I’m sure many of you are wondering who our team consist of so here it is:

Guys – 

Brilliant Chua
Christopher Cheong
Danny Yeo
Dylan Koo
Francis Fong
Pang Sheng Jun
Quah Zheng Wen
Teo Zhen Ren
Russell Ong
Samuel Khoo 

Girls – 

Cherlyn
Cheryl Lim
Chloe Wang
Marina Chan
Nicholle Toh
Quah Jing Wen
Quah Ting Wen
Rachel Tseng
Roanne Ho

The first week of training was pretty much getting back into shape again as many of us just came back from our Christmas break and Sergio fully understands our situation.

He also said that he wanted to get to know each and everyone of us better so that he can plan training sessions accordingly to suit each individual, and since I took a semester off school… I guess I’ve no reason to skip any sessions. But I’m ready for any intensive training that is going to come my way.

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Back row: Danny, Zhen Ren, Me
Front row: Chris Cheong, Russell Ong, Zheng Wen

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As the saying goes… Boys will be boys. Here’s a photo of us playing in the showers despite being tired after our training. Sometimes I really wonder where we get our energy from… haha

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And finally a serious photo of the older guys training in the national training squad. Russ likes to call it “The Men of Singapore Swimming.

 

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With all that said, I really like the group dynamics now as the team consist of passion driven and motivated individuals, and I’m sure this would make the difference when the tough times come. I’m confident that coach Sergio and Gary can really take Singapore Swimming to the next level with their passion and experience.

Everything is looking good gearing up towards the 2015 SEA Games. Let’s go team!

P.S. Sorry we haven’t officially taken a group photo yet, once we have, I’d be sure to upload it as well 🙂 

Stay tuned for more updates!

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