Meet the Stars 2021: Swimming

Keeping your head above the water, barely treading is a swimmer’s stepping stone to never drown in the deep trench. Thus, gloriously introducing Sunway’s Mer-Scholars to land, Echo proudly presents “Meet the Stars”, encapsulating the journey of Sunway’s Sports Scholars who have rewritten history and made their dreams come true. 

Water that sparkles through the shimmer of sunlight is their place of peace. The underwater world has indeed visioned their beliefs. Let’s find out the backstory of each Mer-Scholar and their splashing story at the pool. 

Yap Shi Ting

Meet Sunway’s certified student swimming coach, Yap Shi Ting. Currently, at age 21 pursuing a degree in ACCA along with a notable sports career, as per her notion, “It’s not all about winning but to focus on myself”. She has competed in MSSM representing her home state, Pahang at the ripe age of 12 and MSSD at 10 years old. According to Shi Ting, the hard work and dedication she has invested to compete is significantly more important than standing on a podium. She attends training, intending to make every swim count and create the best version of herself until she gets tired. 

Every athletes’ nightmare is when the fuel runs out chasing what they love. A stunt in Shi Ting’s training for almost 18 months was the darkest moment in her sports career. Training schedules of eight to nine times a week with only one rest day on Sundays, including dryland training in the gym, her endeavor through it all is meritorious. She said that support from her parents, siblings, teammates and coach has been her pillar of strength through this tough time. Forevermore, keeping in mind that she’s not alone, led her to persist through and finally revamp what she calls ‘a whole new personal sports journey’. 

With respect to her coach as a paragon, Shi Ting acknowledges how much her coach has sacrificed for her teammates and herself. Encouraging a whole lot all the time through her entire sports career and not to mention the mundane routines of training to keep track of, Shi Ting claims she is nothing without her coach. Sadly, although her paragon is no longer coaching her at the moment, they do catch up and keep in touch whenever possible. 

Undoubtedly, the MCO has affected her training tremendously as swimmers depend on the pool for the water-feel conditioning, since dry-land training can only do as much as maintain shape. Shi Ting feels down because, with such circumstances, it seems like she has to start all over again once the situation improves. Anyhow, she strives not to waste time and depend on proper time management and productivity with a schedule to balance both her studies and sports in her daily life. Needless to say, she’s got it all under control. 

Liam Eu Li-An

An incident at the back of his grandmother’s house at 2 years old turned out to be a life-changing moment for this 19-year-old, Liam Eu Li-An. When he was 2, Liam, who was jumping around the side of a pool, accidentally fell in without having his floaties on and almost drowned. Due to the incident, his mother decided to send him for swimming lessons and since then he has been swimming for almost 2 decades. 

When Liam first started swimming at 2, he had an immense fear of the water but slowly began to love the sport, all thanks to his coach, Desmond. 6 years later, Liam started his journey of training as a competitive swimmer.  At a swimming club event that very year, he competed against 10-year-olds and won a silver medal. Ever since, breast-stroke became his favourite stroke, and he also developed his newfound love for swimming. 

Liam alongside his teammate

In 2018, upon switching swimming clubs to a more advanced club, his decision-making, coordination and reaction time improved drastically, and that helped him gain a spot in the Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur state team. Since then, he has an excellent track record for swimming breast-stroke in all events. 

When faced with setbacks, Liam relies on his mum, coach and friends for motivation. For instance, his mother would take him to trainings and watch videos of Olympic athletes swimming in order to provide him with notes and tips. Liam is also close to his coach, who constantly motivates him, although he scolds him occasionally like every student-coach relationship. Not to forget, his friends who have played a big role in ensuring that he keeps going too. 

Ultimately, Liam hopes to participate in the Olympics as soon as the Paris 2024 Olympics begins. In order to achieve this, Liam plans to take baby steps by first qualifying for the national team. After that, he hopes to take part in bigger competitions and eventually reach the Olympics. For him, the best part of competing in this sport is the experience gained, the adrenaline rush when competing as well as the company he has. Overseas trips to swimming competitions, also have been able to help him bond more with his fellow teammates. 

In order to prepare him for competitions, his coach makes him do hard training until a week before the competition. After that, they move on to taper sets. Taper sets are short distance but hard training. Preparing this way, helps him build his stamina and also gives his body time to rest before the competition. During the day of his competition, Liam undergoes a normal warm up, keeps warm and does some stretching. At the same time, he also prefers to plug in his earphones and listen to music. For competition seasons, Liam usually keeps to a strict diet that is high in protein. 

The MCO that has been going on has deeply impacted Liam’s stamina. Even then, he perseveres through such times and continues to do some home workouts with his own set of weights. Liam’s favorite quote that he stumbled upon as one of his family friends shared this prompt with him and has kept him going all this time is, “I do, therefore I am”. Holding on to the quote, his mindset is to put in all the work required to become what he wants to be. 

As an athlete and breast-stroker, Liam’s idol is Adam Peaty. Adam Peaty is a British-English Swimmer who specializes in Breast-stroke just like Liam. He looks up to Adam Peaty because even at the age of 25, Adam has accomplished so much. Notably, he is the fastest breast-stroker in the world and Liam hopes to be able to compete against him one day. 

Bryan Soo Wai Lok

Next up, get to know Bryan Soo Wai Lok, an 18-year-old studying AUSMAT who found out he was a fast swimmer at 6 years old. What’s more? The Selangor state team noticed Bryan’s talent when he was only 9 years of age. To those who can relate, the butterfly stroke is fun yet extremely intimidating. Well, he’s a professional because Bryan’s favourite strokes are the butterfly as well as the fifty fly for short events. Impressive, huh?

According to Bryan, the order of strokes from the fastest to slowest is the Free-stroke, Fly-stroke, Breast-stroke and lastly Back-stroke. 

Having represented the Selangor state team for 9 years continuously, Bryan’s ambition is to one day honourably represent Malaysia in the Olympics. He’s favourite quote is by Michael Phelps,  “You can’t put a limit on everything, the more you dream, the further you go”. Despite the fact that, at times when Bryan feels sad and angry because of disappointing results, he tries to calm down with music; he admitted that intermittently his anger fuels him to do better in the next swim. 

Given the pandemic, although Bryan is unable to swim, he mentions how he enjoys working out at the gym and it’s much less of an effort than training. He seemingly uses this opportunity to focus more on his education with a scholarship. ‘It means a lot, I can further my study obviously, and it motivates me to swim faster, so in future, I can get more scholarships. And most importantly, I think I make my parents proud & lessen their burden.’ Bryan says. 

An advice Bryan has for his younger self is to train harder. He believes that he could have reached greater heights if he did not slack around before. Although regret is a funny thing, Bryan’s talent and fruition are certainly avowed. Just like Liam, his role model is Adam Peaty, the best breaststroker and world record holder. In other words, his choice for a role model says it all. With that, earnestly wishing Bryan ‘kudos’, as there’s a lot more to come. 

Christy Teh Xing Ti

What initially started out as the love for water at the age of 5 turned out to be so much more for Christy Teh Xing Ti, 19 and has just completed her Cambridge A-Levels. Lucky for her, her parents and relatives could recognise her budding talent and nurtured it by bringing her to beginner swimming classes. Since then, she has not looked back. Just 4 years after she learned how to swim, she was selected to be a part of the Selangor State Swimming team.

During minor events or meets, Christy usually takes part in all 4 strokes, which are the butterfly, free, fly and back. However, when it comes to larger competitions’ strokes, such as the SUKMA event, her attention will be focused on 1 or 2 major strokes in order to increase her chances of winning. Although her favourite stroke might be back-stroke, her fastest stroke is still free-style, followed by the butterfly-stroke. 

Christy at the SUKMA event, posing with her medal.

In the long run, Christy hopes that one day she will be able to make her country proud by representing Malaysia in the Olympics. As for now, she is focusing on representing the country in more international meets. Within the short 10 years of her professional swimming career, Christy has already won a Bronze Medal in the 50m backstroke event during SUKMA. 

Life is filled with many uncertainties and challenges. According to Christy, the biggest challenge that she has faced was overcoming herself. Swimming taught her a valuable lesson, and that is winning isn’t everything. This is because Christy realised that the more medals she won, the less she felt like herself and she also began to enjoy the sport, much less. After taking time to step back, reflect and redirect, she has learned that swimming competitively is so much more than just winning. Instead, it is about the lessons and progress. She continuously thanks God for the amazing support system she has and for always being there for her in times of need.

It is without a doubt that in every meet or competition there have to be winners and losers. When asked about how she handles her negative emotions, Christy simply said that she has learnt to acknowledge her feelings and let them go. For her, as long as she has given her 100%, no matter the results, she is happy with it. When it comes to negative comments, she tries to focus and do her best, given the circumstances. Her favourite quote is, “Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt to those things and learn from mistakes” from Michael Phelps. 

In one day, all of us have the same 24 hours and that applies to Christy, too. After many years of being in the sport, Christy has learned to strike a balance between the sport and her studies through time management. This is because, through good time management, she has been able to spend her time more efficiently and procrastinate less. Her advice to all the budding swimmers out there is to not let your mind limit your potential and always remember your roots. 

Lim Kai Hen 

At only 17 years old, Kai Hen is an A-Level Student in Sunway College and also a Selangor State Swimmer. After swimming for the past 9 years, Kai Hen has transitioned from being a long-distance swimmer to a sprinter. As a sprinter, he mostly swims the freestyle and butterfly stroke for 50m and 100m. Kai Hen initially picked up swimming as a sport to help him improve lung capacity after having a case of bronchitis asthma at 8 years old. He was then taken under the wing of a former Olympic coach who helped him establish a good foundation from a young age. In order to keep up with his training amidst the current MCO, Kai Hen takes the initiative to log in to Zoom workouts conducted by his coach or even just go out for a jog to help improve his endurance. 

As of to date, his highest achievement would be representing Selangor in a 4×100 relay during the Malaysia Invitational Age Group Championship 2019. Although at that point Selangor was not a strong contender for the event and ended up being overlooked for medal contention, Kai Hen was able to help pull back his team with a two second lead when it came to his turn to swim the butterfly stroke. As a result, they triumphantly ended up winning the gold medal. 

When it comes to managing his academics and sports, Kai Hen attributes it to experience. Coming from a boarding school, he had to wake up at 4am, train and have breakfast before going to school. Although it was really tiring, he could still juggle his studies and swimming. Kai Hen is also not afraid to reach out for help when necessary, as he frequently asks for help and advice from his teachers. Through becoming an athlete, he has learned various life lessons. Among them includes time management, perseverance as well as developing his social skills. 

To prepare himself for any tournament, Kai Hen usually meditates and visualizes a certain outcome of the event. This was a practice that his coach taught him in order to prepare him for what might happen during the event. Few days before the event, he usually consumes a diet high in carbohydrates, which helps to boost his energy levels. 

When faced with setbacks, Kai Hen takes the time to reflect and discuss with his coach in order to ensure that he will be able to come back stronger for the next meeting. The quote that Kai Hen stands by would be “Trust the process”. This is because, for him, the process is more important than the result, which is merely a byproduct of the effort put in for training. 

Ladies and gentlemen, truly the water has marvelously shaped these Mer-Scholars to their finest. Their ambition astounds us and makes us proud, for they may be budding swimmers, but they are also our country’s future Olympians. Wishing them luck in all, for the hours and effort have been put in, it is now time for them to shine through the shimmer of sunlight in clear waters. 

Stay tuned to meet more sports stars coming up!

Written by: Jamie and Sumitra Cheong

Edited by: Maki

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