How to trick your mind to effortlessly complete your swimming workout

I’m sure many swimmers, especially distance swimmers, can relate to your coaches giving you insanely long sets during your training sessions which may feel impossible to complete sometimes, especially on your worst days of training. Sometimes it makes you wonder if they were smoking weed or something the night before to have given you such insane sets.

Being a distance swimmer for most of my swimming life, there are definitely some days I get mad when my water feel isn’t great and there’s an insane set lined up for me during that training session.

Sets like 10×400 IMs, 40×100 Freestyles, 3 rounds of 8×50 at lactate intensity just to name a few. I’ve slowly learnt to overcome the fear of these insanely long sets by tricking my mind into thinking that sets like these are actually not long and easy to accomplish.

Whether you’re a distance swimmer, or someone who just hates long and intensive sets in general, here are some tricks that I’ve learnt over the years which may benefit you as well:

1) Break the set into portions

Photo Credits: Andy Chua

For a set like 10x400IM, instead of telling yourself it’s a 10x400m set, tell yourself that it is 2 x [5x400IM], or 5 x [2x400IM], because it’ll seem so much easier to complete if you break it down into portions. After completing the first [2x400IM], tell yourself that you only have 4 more rounds of that cycle, and after completing [5x400IMs], tell yourself that you only need to complete 1 more round of that cycle. In that way, you’ll always have something to look forward to, and this allows you to take each 400m at a time and focus on 1 swim at a time, instead of trying to complete the whole 10x400IM set as a whole. Trust me, this shift in mindset makes the set a whole lot easier!

2) Pick something you would like to focus on during the set

There’s always something important to focus on during a main set. For example, do you want to focus on your distance per stroke for the day? Or your kick? There’s always something that you can focus on during the training session itself, so pick something that you would like to focus on for that session and try to perfect it; I guarantee that your set will be over before you know it because you’ll be so focused on perfecting your technique that you might even forget the pain of the set.

For a set like 40×100, aim to pull 32 strokes for the first 50m and 33 strokes for the second 50m, and count each 100m to see if you’ve achieved that expectation, you’ll realize that the set gets much more interesting as there’s a challenging element to the set instead of just going through the motion.

3) Tell yourself it’s the “last set before the last set” 

Another mental trick that ensures that you don’t save up for the last max effort. In a set like 8x50m max effort, before doing the 7th one, tell yourself that it’s the “last max effort before the last max effort“, that way, you’ll naturally go harder on the 7th one and not save up your energy for the last one. For some reason, you’ll always have that extra bit left in you to sprint the last one, so if you can just go hard on the 7th one, you’ll be pushing much harder during training than you usually do.

4) The set naturally gets easier after halfway

Always remember that for some reason, the set just gets much easier after you hit the halfway mark. Say you’re in a 8x50m max effort set, if you don’t already realize, the last 4x50m is always easier than the first 4x50m. Maybe it’s your mind telling you that the end is almost near, which is why it mentally feels easier to complete the last 4x50m in the max effort set.

To fully take advantage of this, when your coach gives you a 8x50m max effort set, instead of thinking that there’s 8x50m to complete, tell yourself that it is only a 4x50m max effort to halfway, and the next 4x50m will be an easy one to complete. That way, the set will feel much shorter than it is and you’ll clock better pace times.

It may not make sense, but it’s basically tricking your mind into thinking that the set is easier than it is. After all, the difference between accomplishing a good set and a bad one is mostly mental, so if you can trick your mind into better completing a set, why not?

5) Spur your teammates on during the main set 

The final and most important thing that has helped made my swimming workouts easier – Always remember that the best way for you to improve is when you help others improve as well. Spur your teammates on during practice, and cheer them on when both of you are in the same main set. It not only makes them better, it also serves as a reminder for yourself to swim your heart out during training as well. If they can get better, it will push you to be better too; this is something that I’ve learnt ever since I joined the National Training Squad. Swimming may be an individual sport, but working as a team always makes completing sets a whole lot easier, because being in a team, you’ll realize that your teammates are always there to spur you on during practices.

Always remember that you’ll have your bad days too, that’s when your teammates will step in and spur you on.

The bond created with your teammates through pushing each other on during training sessions also translates to race day. Because working together day in and day out will create such a strong bond between your teammates that even if you end up racing in the same race, you’ll naturally still want the best for them during their race.

So here are the various tips and tricks which I’ve learnt over the years of swimming and I hope that it will help you with your training as well! Keep working hard guys. 🙂

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I used to be afraid of failing… but not anymore

Everyone of you have gone through setbacks, whether it’s failing a paper you studied really hard for, to a competition which you did badly, even when you’ve did the best preparation for it.

Why must life be so unfair? Others have made the same preparations but they have done well, so why didn’t you?

You may even feel like Sometimes you just feel like the world is against you, or life is just pissing you off on purpose, don’t you?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I myself, and I’m sure many others, have gone through this tough phase and overcame it. I personally overcame my setbacks by constantly believing in the process, and believe in myself despite all the bad things that have happened in my life. But first, you have to accept the fact that the world is not against you, you just happen to be really unlucky this time around.

If you keep telling yourself that it is just one bad experience and it will get better in time, you’ll start to believe that you can get out of the slump and start achieving what you set yourself out for.

I’ll be teaching you a simple trick today which will help you in believing yourself more and staying motivated towards achieving your goals which you have in your life.

All you have to do is to look in the mirror, picture yourself as the person you want to be in 2-3 years time, and the achievements you want to have by then. Write them down in a piece of paper, or in your phone which you can set as your home screen, and start taking little steps to get to the person which you picture yourself to be. DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why is it important to write it down? To me personally, when I write something down in my phone and set it as my home screen, I am being held accountable to myself. Whenever I press the switch on my home screen, I would always be reminded of the goal which I want to achieve. For example, if your friend were to ask you out for a late night, but you’ve got morning training the next day, temptation will definitely strike you to just hang out for a bit. This is when the reminder that you’ve written in your phone will give you the extra motivation to to rest up and prepare for the tough training session for the next day.

Trust me, by writing it down, it gives you the opportunity to see the big picture, to constantly remind you of where you want to be at the end of the finish line.

Being accountable to myself has personally benefited me as well. I think many of you have read about my setback story which I almost gave up in life. (link here) But with the power of believe and being accountable to myself, I bounced back and achieved what I set myself out to achieve.

So this was me in 2011:


I felt really awful and depressed in 2011, and it was the period that I was in my worst shape in my life. I was at the lowest point in my swimming career, and it was really hard to climb back up from it.

I was so unfit to the point that a simple swim set which I used to complete easily would take me twice the amount of effort to complete, and man it was really really discouraging, especially when you’re swimming times that you’ve done a few years back. It kinda feels like the training that you’ve put in the past couple of years have gone down the drain.

However, that did not stop me from believing in the process. As I have mentioned above, I pictured where I wanted to be in 2013-2015 so I committed myself to working hard towards being the person I wanted myself to be.

I pictured myself as a much fitter, faster swimmer than I was there. And of course, I pictured myself winning a SEA Games medal after my dreadful 2011 experience. I told myself that never again I’m going to feel this devastated in my life.

To me, the only way that I could get out of this devastation was to win a medal at the next SEA Games. So I pictured myself in 2011 and thought about hanging the medal around my neck in 2013, alongside with amazing things that could happen in my swimming career if I were to be fitter and faster.


With that mentality, I started working a lot harder, and kept reminding myself of that medal I desired so much, but it has always been taken constantly away from me.

I was rarely tempted to stay up late during my training days as I know that it will be detrimental to my performances. There were some occasions that I couldn’t resist the temptation of a late night of playing computer games, but being accountable for my own actions really made me change those bad habits.

Competitions are brutal – everyone is fighting their hearts out in a race just to win, and there can only be one winner in a race. This is why in order to win, you’ll have to sacrifice, and learn to do things that are out of the norm.


So by the end of 2013, I was able to make that picture I had in 2011 to a reality, all through believing in the process, and being accountable to my actions. This goes to show that as long as you set your mind up to a goal, and stick to it no matter how hard it may be, you’ll be able to achieve them in time to come. 🙂


Building from that, 2013 gave me a lot more motivation to work even harder than before, as I know that anything’s possible as long if I set myself up well for it, and set goals which I am accountable for.

University got really stressful, and it wasn’t giving me enough rest time between sessions, so I took a leap of faith and took a break from school to focus on swimming. I had the courage to do that as I wanted to make sure that I was accountable to myself, and preparing myself to the best of my ability when the big day comes.

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And true enough, goals which I set myself out to achieve has been done again, because I’ve gave myself an opportunity to perform at the best of my ability, and I always held myself accountable to my own actions.

I started being more accountable to myself when I’ve failed to medal in both the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games. I used to think that it was a curse that I failed so badly back then, but come to think of it, failing has taught me many life lessons which I treasure today. In order to appreciate your success more, you’ll have to learn to fail first. Because you’ll only realize the sweetness of success when you’ve failed badly.


If I were to reflect back on the setbacks of my life, I’m proud to say that I’m glad those experiences happened. Because it shaped me to the person I am today – someone who is no longer afraid of failing, and someone who is constantly accountable for my own actions.

I’ve already made plans for the 2017 SEA Games moving on from my 2015 SEA Games experience, and I’m getting fitter and faster with each passing day. I’ll keep my targets a secret but just know that I’ve already pictured where I want to be by 2017. So I hope that you’ve made your plans too!

With that said, I hope that my post will motivate you to start making plans for yourself and hold yourself accountable to them! Remember to write them down, and I wish you all the best in achieving them. Let’s strive to get better together! 🙂


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2 simple tips to pacing yourself better in a race


Swimming has become such a complex sport that every detail matters in a race. A bad pace into the first 50m, and the whole race will be over. Imagine all the months of hard work just got screwed over by 1 bad pace at the first 50m… that ain’t worth it at all. This is why pacing yourself well is crucial in defining whether your race will be a good one or bad one.

But hey, you’re not to blame fully as the competitor beside you may decided to go out hard during the race and you simply got distracted. How is that fair? Sadly, that’s just now swimming works. Although we control our own swims, we can sometimes get distracted by the person beside us if they have a different race plan from us.

With that said, as long as we have a solid race plan, nothing will be able to distract us from sticking to it. Below are some tips which I’ve learnt over the years to ensure that you will NEVER AGAIN screw up your race plan, even if you have another person beside you who has a totally different one.

It’s actually pretty simple, all you have to do is to pay more attention to little details during your training, and everything will fall into place when competition comes. As the saying goes…


The tricky thing about swimming is that we’ll never know how fast or slow we’re going when we’re swimming. We’re unable to check the pace clock (unlike other sports) as we’re constantly putting our head in the pool. Therefore, pacing has to be based on feeling, and the better feel you have, the better you can pace. We can pace off someone else’s race plan sometimes, but ultimately, knowing your own race plan ensures that your swimming performances stay consistent.

Coach: “Eh why didn’t you swim well today?” 
Swimmer: “Because I have no water feel today coach…” 


Here are 2 simple tips to let you have a better feel for pace in the water:

1) Count your strokes during pace sets

What we constantly do at the National Training Squad is that we’re always counting strokes when doing 50m pace works. Our coaches will give us a set like 8×50 on 1:00, and the break down will be:

2 holding 31 seconds pace
2 holding 30 seconds pace
2 holding 29 seconds pace
2 holding 28 seconds pace 

The key will be to count your strokes for each block of 2, and try to hold the same stroke counts for each 2. For example, I hold:

30 strokes for the 1st 2 on 31 seconds pace
31 strokes for the 2nd 2 30 seconds pace
32 strokes for the 3rd 2 29 seconds pace
33 strokes for the last 2 28 seconds pace

So if I were to do a 1500m Freestyle race in competitions and the timing I am aiming for is a 15 min 30 seconds, I will have to hold a 31 second pace per 50m (31 seconds + 31 seconds = 1 min 02 seconds. 1 min 02 seconds x 15 = 15 min 30 seconds), which is about 30 strokes per 50 meters. So in a race, all I have to do is to ensure that I maintain my 30 strokes stroke length and I should roughly know that I’m on par for a 15 min 30 seconds pace.

Of course, we also have to factor in an increase in stroke rate in the last few hundred meters of a race due to fatigue, but that will be a separate blog post for another time.

2) Know the different kick patterns and when to apply them

Next step after establishing your stroke counts, you have to establish your kick counts. We all know that there are 3 different types of kick patterns:

i) 2 beat kick
ii) 4 beat kick
iii) 6 beat kick

And it goes in an order of difficulty too. The more you kick, the more sore you’re going to be. In a race, it’s about finding balance in your kicks to ensure that you do not fatigue too early in the race, and still have enough energy to max out your kicks in the final stages of the race, because that will determine whether you win or lose a race.

I shall use myself as an example again to give you a clearer explanation of the different types of kicks:

For a 30 strokes, 31 seconds pace – I use a 2 beat kick
For a 31 strokes, 30 second pace – I use a 4 beat kick
For a 32 strokes, 29 second pace – I use a light 6 beat kick
For a 33 strokes, 28 second pace – I use a heavier 6 beat kick

So it’s about connecting your kicks to your pulls, and finding a suitable pace to go for in the various races, whether it’s a 200m Freestyle, or 1500m Freestyle. Choose the kick patterns and in cooperate it into your swims, and you should have a better pacing during your race.

Things to note

The key message from this post would be to understand your own body well. You may not have the same kick patterns as I have, so you’ll have to find out what’s best suited for you and stick to it during your training sessions!


Just imagine your body as a race car – Your arms are the steering wheel, and your legs are the wheels. The better you tune it, the better it’s going to be during a race. And tuning it comes from finding the connection in your arms and legs together when doing your pace work, and knowing the various kick patterns and arms strokes required to achieve certain timings in your pace work.

Start paying attention to the little details in training like stroke count and kick patterns, and you’ll be able to establish your race paces better! Say goodbye to distractions and I hope you start swimming great races!!! 🙂


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This is why you should take every race seriously


Hello guys! I’m back again with issue which I would like to bring up. Basically, it’s about taking every competition – no matter how small it may be, or how fatigue you are that day, and race your heart out every race. When I say race your heart out I mean RACE UNTIL YOUR ARMS AND LEGS FEEL LIKE FALLING OFF, and make sure that you have nothing left in the tank after that race.

It took me about a year to understand this concept of racing hard no matter what the competition may be. I was initially skeptical towards this approach. Like come on – Why do I need to race hard in unimportant competitions when I can win the race with an easier time? I mean I’m not bragging about this, but it is true, I think athletes tend to ease off when they know that they can win the competition with ease. It’s kinda similar to social loafing, where you exert less effort to achieve that same target. But I would like to address this today about why we should all change this loafing mindset and start racing hard no matter what the competition is.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Wan

1. Every competition is a chance for you to realize your weaknesses

Going hard every race allows you to solidify your race plan when it comes to big competitions. It’s simple – every race gives you an opportunity to try out new race plans and techniques, so don’t waste those opportunities to just ‘race to win.’ Take it as a chance to try out the different things that you’ve learnt from training, keep the good things that you’ve learnt, and toss away the things that you thought was good but didn’t pan out well during your race.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Wan

2. Your weaknesses are AMPLIFIED during competitions

People are tempted to not go all out after a tough week of training when they are at their most fatigue stage. But if you learn to race hard, you’ll be able to pin point where your weaknesses lie during your race, especially when your body is at it’s most fatigue stage. That’s because the pain amplifies when you’re tired, so you know EXACTLY where your weaknesses are. For example, in a race, if your legs start to hurt like mad in the last few meters of your race, you know for sure that your weakness lies in your kick, and you’ll have to work more on it during the next phase of training.

3. It helps in fighting through greater pain barriers

Similar to what I’ve mentioned above, when weaknesses are amplified, pain is amplified as well. Racing hard on bad days allows you to push through greater pain barriers as compared to when you’re well rested and tapered. And if you can push through the pain barrier in a race which you are unrested, you’ll have no fear when it comes to bigger competitions, when you know that you’re more well rested and in shape.


4. Sometimes, your best times come unexpected

At times, you’ll still be able to swim best times even when you’re tired! For me, I’ve swum best times before when I’m unrested throughout my swimming career, and that gives me a huge confidence boost as I know that my times are going to be much better when I’m well rested and tapered. So just race your heart out, and see how the race pans out.


I hope my post inspires you to take every racing opportunity seriously, and race your heart out every race. Always remember that every race is a chance for you to better yourself, and it also trains you up both physically and mentally to prepare you better for the bigger competitions to come, so STOP LOAFING!!! 


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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.

anthony ervin.jpg

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.

michael phelps.jpg

“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!


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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This is how news should be reported

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


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

(Inspired by Ye Shi Wen to write this)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gosh, mad props to you Dickson. 


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

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

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



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Sorry mum and dad, I didn’t make it to the Olympics

AUG Swimming Day3 Finals - 2016-07-14_Andy Chua -DSC_4436.jpg

… Aaaaaaaaand it’s official, I have failed to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I can honestly say that I am indeed disappointed having failed to qualify for the most prestigious event of swimming, but hey, the worst has already happen, so everything will just get better from here!

Swimming’s a pretty brutal sport – even if you’ve hit the qualifying time for the Rio Olympics, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get to go to the Olympics. For those that are unsure, let me explain it to you.

So according to FINA rules, they have set a maximum limit of swimmers at 900, meaning that once the 900 swimmer quota is met, the rest of the swimmers will not stand a chance to swim in the Rio Olympics. On paper, 900 swimmers may seem like a lot, but in reality, it is actually really really little, and I’ll break it down for you.

There are a total of 4 different pathways to qualify for the Olympics, prioritized in this order:

  1. Athletes who have made the A Qualification time for the Olympics and also the Top 2 in their respective countries
  2. Athletes who have qualified in the Top 16 places in relays
  3. To promote universality, countries without any qualified athletes may enter a maximum of 2 athletes – 1 male 1 female, also known as wild cards
  4. Athletes who have made the B Qualification time for the Olympics

As you can see, most of us swimmers fall into the 4. category, whereby we made the B qualification times for the Olympics. Back in 2008 they didn’t have a max limit of 900 swimmers, which means any athlete which hits the B qualification time would be part of the Olympics. But my guess is that due to swimming’s competitive nature, many swimmers in the world made the B qualification time, which is why they limit the swimmers to 900 swimmers only, which also means that qualifying for the Olympics just became waaaaaaaaaay harder.

Excuse my math, but if I were to calculate it really vaguely, power houses like USA, Japan, Australia, France, etc would have about 26 male and female athletes who have met the A qualifying times for the Olympics, so that’s about a 4-500 spots gone. Relays would add up to roughly another 50-100 spots. For universality/wild cards spots, there are 196 countries in the world, so if you were to take out the powerhouses, there would be about 150 countries left who will be aiming for universality/wild card spots, which takes up to another 300 spots with 1 male and 1 female taking each spot. After deducting swimmers who have met one of the first 3 pathways to the Olympics, swimmers who made the B qualification marks will be left with about… 50 spots.

Since there are 26 events in both male and female events, only the top B qualifier would qualify for the Olympics, which makes it really really tough. So unfortunately, all of us were not the top B qualifier based on rankings of B qualifiers.

Pretty brutal, ain’t it?

All the years of training you put into qualifying for the Olympics all seem like a waste, and all you can do is to go back to training another 4 years and hopefully being able to qualify for the next Olympics with the A Qualifying time.

Thoughts of unfairness have crossed my mind quite a bit. Like why do they have the stupid 900 limit rule? Why wasn’t I born earlier so that I would have made the 2008 Olympics?

But you know what, I came to realize that thoughts like these are irrelevant. Honestly, what’s the point of brooding over something that I can’t change the outcome on? I should just move on, and learn to control what I can control in life, which is to train harder to make the A qualifying time in the next Olympics, and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

You know, I think the biggest relief I had was that before I left for Florida for my training camp, I had a heart to heart talk with my parents, and they said that they were already really proud of what I achieved in my swimming career, regardless of whether I make it to the Olympics or not, and that just gave me a sense of inner peace deep down in my heart.

I’ve always wanted to do my parents proud, and one of my dream was to be able to stand on the podium in a major competition and see the smile on my parent’s faces in the spectator stands when I collect my medal. I was able to do it during SEA Games last year, and best part was that it was done in home soil, which made everything even sweeter.

So for them to assure me with that, really make me change my whole perception of swimming, and that shifted my focus onto swimming because I love swimming, without having the emotional stress which I constantly placed on myself in the past.

Thanks for still believing in me though I’ve failed to make the Olympics this time around, Mum and Dad. But there’s always the next one 🙂

P.S. So for parents, know that we swimmers are really stressful even when we don’t show it, so a simple gesture of letting your kids know that you’re proud of them can go a long way 😉

My swimming career has never been a smooth sail as well, but I’m thankful because failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics is merely just a minor setback for me. It doesn’t take much to move on and keep my mind focused on the next upcoming competition. Besides, I enjoy the adrenaline rush of every competition; nothing beats the chills you get when you get a huge surge of adrenaline rush before every race. And constantly beating my personal best times just further proves that my hard work has paid off.

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So with that said, what’s next for me? Well, in all honestly, my passion for swimming has grown a lot stronger through the years, and if you’ve read my article on TODAY just last week, I ain’t going anywhere away from the pool just yet! I’m in the best shape of my life and I’ve swam personal best times untapered, so things will only get better from here.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy swimming because I’m in love with this sport, and I’m sure that things will play out well naturally.

I have great mentors, coaches and teammates who are supporting me all the way so I’m really excited towards my next phase of training, a minor setback won’t stop me from working hard. To those who still have strong faith in me after this setback, here’s a BIG THANK YOU to you. You know who you are, and I am eternally grateful. 🙂

Overall, I feel that the biggest takeaway I get from swimming is not so much about the medals that I’ve won, or the achievements that I’ve had. What’s most important is about the relationships that I’ve made and the people that I’ve inspired over the years of my swimming career by overcoming my setbacks.

Swimming has strengthen my mental state as an individual through the constant setbacks being thrown at me and how I managed to overcome each and everyone of them, and that is something you can’t learn in school.

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Medals will rust, but relationships forged in the swimming scene will last a lifetime. Also, seeing how much I’ve inspired people to pursue what they’re passionate in after reading about my swimming career experiences also made me realize that winning isn’t always everything, there are many other reasons to be happy when you’re doing what you love.

Yes, swimming is brutal indeed, a mistake you make in your race would mean costing you that qualification mark or the medal you desire. But ultimately, if you focus on the journey and love the sport as a whole, you’ll have an unforgettable journey filled with wonderful memories to be remembered after you retire.


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How to get over a bad race


There’s always countless amounts of doubts going through every swimmer’s head after a bad race:

“Is this the end of my career?” 

“Should I quit now?” 

“I’ve worked so hard but the results didn’t seem to tally, so why should I even work hard in the first place?” 


So the question is, do you quit? 

The simple answer is NO. First, you must understand that it’s normal to have these negative thoughts running through your head after a bad race, but I want you to forget about those negative thoughts and keep believing that the great race will come one day.

If you haven’t achieved what you set yourself out to achieve in your career, then it’s not time to quit. 

The life span of sport is brutal, it does not wait for you to be ready, and once you past your prime age, it’s over for you even if you want to make a come back. Seize the opportunity when you can, because it’s a privilege for you to be given the opportunity to try.

My dad always reminds me to appreciate the opportunity that I’m given to swim. He told me that when he was my age, he wasn’t even given an opportunity to take on the sporting career.

In the past, sport wasn’t that well promoted as compared to now. It was a luxury to even engage in sporting activities on a daily basis. And comparing to my dad really made me appreciate the opportunity that I am given now.

The point that I’m trying to bring across here is that you should NEVER EVER waste a great opportunity given to you. Instead, appreciate that you’re given the opportunity to race and make full use of it.

Before thinking about giving up, think about how lucky you are to be given this opportunity to race.


But what if I try, but the “great race” never comes? 

There are 2 ways you can look back at your career:

“I have gave everything I had in the pool, and I got no regrets.”

“If only I continued swimming, I would have known my full potential.”

So which one will you choose? The answer’s pretty obvious.

I’m not saying that everyone will find their “great race” in their career, but isn’t that the beauty of sport? The nerves and adrenaline rush you get from each race, not knowing what to expect. The pain from the rush of lactate you have to endure after every race. All these are great experiences you will encounter, even without a good race.

Always remember, you’d rather live your life knowing that you tried your best and failed, than to look back at your life in regret knowing that you once had the opportunity to try, but you chose to give up. Because that, my friend, is going to haunt you for life.

Even if that great race never comes, you’ll be equipped with great life lessons which will get you ready for the work life next time.


Swimming will teach you that in life, even though things will not always go the way you want to, you just have press on and believe in the process. Because sport does not last a lifetime, but the character traits that you’ll learn from it, will last you a lifetime.

Ultimately, if you can learn from every bad experience and take it positively, you are already a winner. 🙂

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Why every bad race isn’t always a bad experience

SNAG Day 5 Finals- 2016-03-20_Andy Chua -DSC_9784.jpg

Everyone’s got their fair share of bad races in swimming, and it’s really impossible to name a swimmer who hasn’t had one. Personally, I’m someone who always finds the positive in every negative situation, even though things might not go my way sometimes.

The Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (SNAG) just happened last week so I’ll be sharing about how the bad races I had were actually great experiences. 

DISCLAIMER: This is going to be yet another long blog post about my experience, so it would take about 10-15 minutes of your reading time. If you’re in a rush for time I’d suggest you come back and read it again another time. 

So the SNAG’s probably the most important meet of the year for Singaporean swimmers, as it serves as the ONLY local competition to qualify for the Olympics this year in Rio. So simply speaking, it is a make or break meet. The Olympic dream is common in many of us in the National team, because Olympics the most prestigious event any swimmer can ever take part in in their sporting career.

Leading up to the SNAG, I’ve had the most solid preparation I’ve could have ever asked for; I did pace times which I’ve never thought that I would ever achieve them in my life and I was even surprising myself on how fast I could actually go. It’s those kinda swimming times that make you go “Ah, I’ve got SNAG in the bag.” Even my coaches were really happy with the progress I’ve made ever since SEA Games ended last year. 

With such good preparation, I was really excited to swim the SNAG. However, shit happens sometimes and to cut the story short, I caught a stomach flu right smack before SNAG. In summary, I did 0 personal best times this meet, even when I had the best preparation leading up toward it. I even took lesser modules in school so that I could prepare wholeheartedly for this trials. It obviously does not feel good, knowing that all your hard work over the months has gone down the drain just because you caught a little bug. 


But today I will not be crying over how unlucky I was to have caught this virus during the week of SNAG. Instead, I’ll be talking about the positive experiences I’ve had for this meet, even though it may seem like a negative one. This is my story: 

Having a stomach flu is an unpleasant feeling – Apart from the tummy aches, it makes you weak, disrupts your sleep, sends shivers down your spine for no apparent reason, and makes you sweat profusely, even when you’re not doing much. 

I still remember 2 days before my race, I had to take a day off the pool just to make sure that I get rid of the virus fully. Although I spent most of my time resting in bed, I had to wake up several times for obvious reasons. It came to a point that it got so frustrating because at the night that I was supposed to be resting and recovering, I literally woke up at 1am, 3am, 5am, 7am, and finally 9am where I just couldn’t fall asleep anymore. I got up of bed a little lethargic and when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe how heavy my eye-bags were, despite sleeping for almost 10 hours, but I just shook it off and hydrated as much as I could. 

I think what made me feel a lot better were the texts received from my coaches and friends, who were really concern about how I was doing. “Great!” I replied, even though I was feeling a little weak that day, but I know that positive self-talk goes a long way to in the road to recovery. I have to give credit to my mum, as she made me the positive person I am today with the different lessons that she’s constantly teaching me in my life. 

“Sheng Jun, I know you’re feeling unwell, I can see it from your face, but in times like these, you still have to learn to stay positive, and put your faith in God. Look at those people living with Cancer, if they didn’t fight for their lives, do you think that they could have won the battle against cancer? Obviously not. So you’re going to fight through this sickness, and give your best shot in 2 days time. I know you can do it.” After listening to her, I felt really inspired to give it my all for the race coming up.  

So time passed and I seized every opportunity I could to get as much rest as possible, and prepared my best before race day. 

When race day came, I woke up feeling dizzy and a little weak but I knew it was ok because it was just preliminaries, so all I needed was to give a swim good enough to secure myself a spot in the finals. I took quite a bit of effort in completing my preliminary race, but I was glad to advance to the finals. 

I went back home and tried to get as much rest as possible. But as usual, I woke up after an hour of sleep with my blanket feeling a little moist due to the profuse sweating. I just shook off that feeling and decided to read and keep my mind off how my body was feeling that day. 

Before we left house I opened up to my mum and dad about how I was really feeling. Mum, dad, before tonight’s race, I would like to thank you all for all the constant support you’ve given me throughout the many years of my swimming career. I’m sorry that I fell sick this time around, but I will still do my best and leave everything in the pool tonight.” 

“Son, whether you swim well tonight, or not, dad just wants you to be happy. So what I want you to do tonight is to go out there, and race your heart out. No matter what the results are, dad will always be supporting you, so go out there, and enjoy yourself, because dad is already proud of what you have achieved in this sport, so don’t feel any less of yourself.” I felt a huge load going off my shoulders after what my dad said, and all I wanted to do was just to race my heart out and see how things would pan out. 

I got to the pool and started stretching. As usual, the sweat started breaking out again, but I ignored it and just stuck to my normal routine. By the time my normal stretching ended, my shirt was pretty damp due to all the sweating. I got in to do my warm up, and got up a little dizzy after I was done warming up. What was most ridiculous was that when I got up to suit up to my competition suit, my legs were shivering when I was trying to pull my suit up, which has never happened in my whole swimming career. So you can roughly imagine how weak my immune system was then.


But I knew nothing could be done to change the fact that I was sick, so I’ll just do my best and control what I can, which is to stick to my race plan. Before leaving for the reporting area, I gave my phone one last glance. “This swim is for you, mum and dad.” I dropped my phone in my bag, and left for the reporting area with a smile on my face. 


As I getting onto the starting blocks, I could hear my coaches and teammates from both sides cheering for me, and that spurred me on to give my best shot, even when I was at my lowest. 

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White lips… Pale Face.. Breathing in snow flakes… 

I gotta say that this was hands down the most painful 400IM race that I have ever swam in my entire life. I remember feeling a sharp pain in my head going into the last 100m of the race, but the end was near so I kept my head down to finish the race, and I left every ounce of energy I had in the pool.  

I swam a 4:26.40, a second lifetime best, just behind my 2015 SEA Games time of 4:24.80. To be honest, this was a pretty solid time considering the circumstances I’ve been through, so I’m really happy with the outcome of the race. 

I feel that the biggest takeaway from this SNAG was neither about the times I did, nor how shitty I felt during that week. Rather, it was about experiencing a different kind of happiness; knowing that everyone still believed in me and still stood by me during this really tough week. It is when I’m at my lowest, that I embraced all the care and concerns which I was receiving. I felt an even stronger bond between my parents and realizing how much they really care for me, makes me really thankful for this experience.  

To all the people that cheered me on during my race, here’s a big THANK YOU to you all, because without the support from each and everyone of you, I think I wouldn’t have been able to achieve a second life time best time in my race. 🙂

It’s really a nice feeling knowing that no matter what the outcome is, my parents will always be happy to be part of my swimming journey. I’ve always had the misconception that doing well = making my parents happy, but that is actually not the case. In reality, parents are actually just happy to be able to be together with their children on their various grueling journeys.

It was also really a whole new racing experience this time around because as a competitive swimmer, I’ve always been the confident one during competitions, my parents kinda left me to do what I needed to get in the zone because racing for more than 15 years in my life, it was pretty much second nature to me. However, this time around, we kinda switched roles and they really gave me the strength and confidence to stay positive and do my best.

So all in all, even though the SNAG has been a totally different experience for me, it was still a happy one. Always remember that no matter how negative or how tough a situation might be, there will always be positives in it. And if we can channel our focus into the positives instead of the negatives, we will lead a happier life.

However, don’t fully ignore the negatives aspects of the situation. Instead, learn from what went wrong, and make sure that the same mistakes don’t happen again in the future. 

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My quest to chasing the Olympic dream may have slowed down a little, but it will not stop me from working hard. 


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First week of training in Jacksonville… Rather sore than sorry

Here’s a video of what has gone down so far in Jacksonville for our training camp.

Credit goes to coach Sonya for the video and edit!

Hope you guys like it 🙂


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Hard Work Pays Off

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