How did taking a semester off University feel like

Swim Finals 4_2015-06-09_Photo by Adrian Seetho_033

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?

mr mak and sheng jun-2

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.


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.

Swim Finals 4_2015-06-09_Photo by Adrian Seetho_044

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.

Swim Finals 4_2015-06-09_Photo by Adrian Seetho_046

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.

Swim Finals_2015-06-011_Photo by Adrian Seetho-70

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.

Swim Finals 4_2015-06-09_Photo by Adrian Seetho_051

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?

Swim Finals_2015-06-011_Photo by Adrian Seetho-51

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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15 more days to the SEA Games; Singapore Swimming team is ready


With just 15 days left to the SEA Games, I can confidently say that the Singapore swimming team has bonded really well together in the 3 staging camps that we had.

To be honest, it’s the first time whereby a team is so closely bonded together leading up to the SEA Games, and knowing that the team will always be behind us no matter what happens, we’ll definitely have the extra edge when race day comes.

It’s always been Coach Sergio and Gary’s goal to bond the team together as one. Why is this so? That is because a team effort will always be greater than individual effort, and working in a team allows us to put individual differences aside and focus on what is best for the team. Each and every individual has their own part to play into creating a successful team. Here’s an example:

We did the bucket challenge during one of our staging camps. This game was taught to us by our Psychologist Josh.

The main aim of the bucket challenge was for everyone to remove their shoes one by one in a circle without the bucket of water toppling over. The challenge is complete once everyone has got their shoes off. The hardest thing about this game was to ensure that the bucket of water didn’t topple over and that required teamwork. To ensure that we were well coordinated, we had the help of a leader which was giving us instructions from top view.

The rationale behind this game is really simple, the leader, who is giving us instructions, is like our coach. He is able to see things from top view and give us the proper guidance and instructions before our races, so all we have to do is to trust them as things are always seen clearer from the top. On the other hand, the rest of us who are in a circle are supposed to work together to ensure that we complete the challenge without dropping the bucket, and this wouldn’t be possible without teamwork.

As you can see from the team bonding activity that we were engaging in, if one person were to let their leg off the bucket, it would topple off for sure. This clearly illustrates the importance of teamwork – whereby everyone has a part to play into creating a great team, and at no point in time a person is slacking off as that would jeopardize the whole challenge.

As the saying goes, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’ and through these activities we were able to learn the importance of teamwork.

But swimming is an individual sport, how do we help the other swimmers do well in their respective events? 

It’s really simple, when others are racing their hearts out, we will always be behind cheering them on during their races. Our competitors wouldn’t be swimming against an individual, rather, they will be swimming against Team Singapore for every race.

This is the one of many cheers that the Singapore Swimming team has done, it is titled ‘we will win the war’. Hope you guys like it! stay tuned for more cheers during the SEA Games. 🙂

Lastly, your support would mean a lot to us so do catch us live on television or at the pool from June 6-11! You guys can also play a part into strengthening our team. Your cheers will definitely be heard and I’m sure that it will motivate us during our toughest days. Lets all play our part into creating a strong Team Singapore!


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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 – 

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.

russell ong danny yeo teo zhen ren quah zheng wen pang sheng jun christopher cheongA photo of the older guys post training
Back row: Danny, Zhen Ren, Me
Front row: Chris Cheong, Russell Ong, Zheng Wen

russell ong danny yeo teo zhen ren quah zheng wen pang sheng jun christopher cheong1

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

russell ong danny yeo teo zhen ren quah zheng wen pang sheng jun christopher cheong2

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.



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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2013 SEA Games Experience

My SEA Games 2013 experience had been a enjoyable and memorable one. These are some of the things that I’ve learnt from the games:

1. Team Spirit

During the games, we came in as one Team Singapore and regardless of clubs, everyone cheered for one another. Head coach Ian Turner told us that we were required to go and support our teammates regardless on whether we had events on the next day. Even though some might think that we’ll get tired cheering our hearts out during the Games, but it gelled our team together as one. During my race, I saw my team cheering their hearts out for me, that had definitely made me more motivated to do well as this became a shared effort, it isn’t just about me anymore, it’s about the team as the whole Team Singapore is behind me during my race. I felt a lot stronger and pumped up to give back to the team. The team spirit that was displayed by us during the SEA Games had definitely contributed to the many medals that Singapore Swimming has won.


Photo: Singapore Swimming 

2. SSA’s support during the games 

First off I would like to thank Head Coach Ian Turner for making sure that the team was well bonded and motivated. He gave us an inspirational speech everyday before the competition and always made sure that everyone was motivated before our races. He is one of the best Head Coach an association could ask for.

I would also like to thank Team Manager Aloysius Yeo and Ridhwan for working their hearts out during the games to ensure that things were going according to plan. Shuttle bus services, pre-competition training times, food and rooms were all managed by them. In an ‘ulu’ place like Myanmar, they made sure everything went smooth so that we didn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen next. Thus, everything was well planned for us swimmers during the games and all we needed to care about was to eat, sleep and prepare for the games.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Executive Director Mr Edwin Ker. It’s the first time I’ve seen an Executive Director of SSA going down to the pool to support us every single day of the swimming competition, it really touches me as I have never seen such a devoted Executive Director before. He has cheered us on during the games and took many nice photos for us to remember our experiences in the SEA Games. Although our flight got delayed on the way back to Singapore, he still waited for us at the airport when we touched down.

Hats off to you SSA, you made Singapore Swimming where we are today.


Photo: Mr Edwin Ker and Huai Xin welcoming us back to Singapore

3. Unforgettable roommates 

During our stay in Myanmar, we had a 6 to a room bunk, which may sound like army all over to guys, but we survived. In fact, we were so united that we didn’t want to leave for Singapore when the games ended as we were already so closely bonded.

As a room we were constantly encouraging each other and spurring each other on to make sure that we could perform under the hard circumstances. We made sure that everyone was well taken care of and nobody was left behind. We’ve had endless room conversations which really bonded us together and made us feel like a team.

Without the room’s support and encouragement, we wouldn’t have been such a strong team Singapore. Glad we could all finish as medalist, thank you all for an unforgettable competition.

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Photo: (From left to right): Clement Lim, Russell Ong, Quah Zheng Wen, Christopher Cheong, Pang Sheng Jun, Darren Lim

4. Proudest moment of my life

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Photo: 4×200 Freestyle Relay team (From left to right): Danny Yeo, Quah Zheng Wen, Joseph Schooling, Pang Sheng Jun

My road to victory had been a really tough one. I had gone through SEA Games 2009 and 2011 without being a medalist. I’ve always missed out by a little to be able to have a podium finish. I’ve always been ‘almost there’ for the past 2 SEA Games. I sometimes question my ability to ever be able to get a medal in the Games. Honestly, I’ve always seen myself as a failure, I was even on the verge of quitting swimming. Fortunately for me, I always had really supportive parents and friends who never gave up on me. They always told me that I’ll get there one day, I will. My mum always say, “Son, don’t see yourself as a failure during the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games, take every competition as an experience to do better for the next, trust me, you’ll reach your goals one day, just have faith in yourself.” Years went by and I persevered. I told myself, I’ve already been swimming half my life, why give up now? Finally after 4 years, I managed to get a medal in the SEA Games. If you were to ask me if it was all worth it, I can honestly say yes. 🙂 To me, a minute of glory triumphs hours and hours and hours of pain and training. The joy you get from victory is just indescribable. Standing on the podium knowing that you did your country and those who had faith in you proud, it’s an awesome feeling.

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Photo: 4×200 Freestyle Relay Gold Medal and a SEA Games Record (From left to right): Quah Zheng Wen, Pang Sheng Jun, Danny Yeo, Joseph Schooling






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