The first post.

Well technically not really. Firstly welcome to my re-launched blog. I actually started this site in late 2007 with the idea that I’ll blog down my experience as someone trying to become a decathlete. It had a grand total of 3 entries (Nicolas Welzl was the first and only one to leave a comment then, thanks loads bro) and then I left it as it as. Next thing you know more than 3 years has passed by and I’m finally updating/re-launching it. (See what procrastination does to you…)

Anyway I’d like to share with you a glimpse of my life as someone chasing a dream and hopefully have you on board with me on my journey.

So a quick formal introduction here, my name is Yong Sheng and I am a third year undergrad studying Sports Science with Management at Loughborough University, UK. I was born and raised in Singapore and am a proud Singaporean. A long while back, I dreamt about becoming a decathlete and this is my story thus far.

Beginning

All glory comes from daring to begin – William Shakespeare

The earliest memory of me wanting to do something with my life was when I came to realise that life is unexpected and often too short. I was about 18 when I was hit with secondary dengue fever (a more serious form of dengue) and had to be sent to A&E for blood platelet transfusion. Going from a very active life in the junior college one day to being hospitalised and not moving out of a hospital room for a week changed my outlook on things quite a bit. It hit me that you really can’t take life for granted as you never know what’s going to happen next. You might be here going on about your usual day and the next thing you know, that’s it.

Another lesson from the epsiode was that firstly I am forever thankful for my classmates from VJC 04S25 for popping by to visit me in the hospital after they were done with school one evening. It’s hard to explain but seeing them really lifted my spirits and from then on I made it a point to visit any friend who is hospitalised just to say a simple hello, because sometimes, that’s all you need to make that difference.

VJC 04S25 Prom Night

The class of 04S25, VJC Prom Night 2005. Thank you for the memories!

Inception

Champions aren’t made in gyms.

Champions are made from something they have deep inside them

— a Desire, a Dream, a Vision.

-Muhammad Ali

So where did this dream of being a decathlete start?

After the dengue fever incident, I became a little obsessed with gaining back my lost strength and wanted to get stronger and develop my body to its fullest potential, thus I started shifting away from air rifle and focused on athletics as a thrower (I did both sports from secondary school to JC). I was good, but never truly fantastic at throwing, managing only to finish 4th in the nationals for shot put (losing to the 2nd and 3rd placing by 4cm, that itself taught me a very important lesson about having  will to fight for those extra centimetres.)

My first encounter with the word ‘decathlete’ or ‘decathlon’ actually came during the school’s inter-house sports day in 2005. I threw the shot put, discus and ran the 110m hurdles (with no prior experience running hurdles) and managed to come in with a gold, silver and bronze medal respectively. After I ran the hurdles, my teacher in-charge of the house I was in (Mr Chow Siew Fong) made a remark that since I can run, jump and throw, I should go be a decathlete. Back then I had no idea what a decathlon was, so I went home and googled it. The more I read about decathlon the more interested I became. Decathlon is a multi-event discipline in athletics that consist of 10 events, completed 5 events a day over two days and is based on a point scoring system. The winner of the decathlon event in the Olympics is given the title ‘The world’s greatest athlete’. How cool was that I thought. Moreover, the last Singaporean decathlete set the national record at 6393 points in the year 1978. There hasn’t been an active decathlete in Singapore since. I looked at the score and figured, you know what, I can do that.

It’s funny how you can shape someone’s life with just a few words, especially being a teacher. I must say I have had amazing teachers whilst I was growing up and each and every one leaves a mark on you whether you realise it or not. So thank you for helping shape me to who I am today, and know that without you guys I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.

And so began my journey to be a decathlete.

VJC Sports Day 2005

VJC Sports Day 2005 with the Ursa house committee. Mr Chow Siew Fong (centre). Note: I still haven't figured out who's fingers are those behind me.

Believe

Most people take the limits of their vision to be the limits of the world,

A few do not. Join them

– Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher

After I left junior college, army happened.

Singaporeans go through a compulsory national service for all male citizens and like everyone else I was enlisted into the army. I must say I quite enjoyed myself in there, being the physically active type, and I especially enjoyed my time out in the jungles as somehow I felt at peace in those environments. I did my best during Basic and managed to get selected to be an Officer Cadet. However things don’t always go according to plan as I’m sure you all have figured as well. I still remember the day that I jogged down a slope out in the fields one morning during training and felt a sharp pain in my left knee. The next thing I know, it just buckled and I fell to the ground, I looked back and saw that there were no rocks or holes where I just was and I knew something was wrong.

I was sent for an MRI scan and it turned out that left knee’s meniscus had degenerated. I was having problems walking up and down stairs and could not jog or run without feeling sharp pain in my left knee. It got so bad that I remembered on a couple of occasions when I was getting into a car from the right, my left knee would just experience a sharp pain and buckle, causing me to kinda collapse into the car.

I was downgraded and posted to a staff position within the school, a far cry from the jungles and action that I loved.

If there is one lesson that I believe everybody should learn, it would be that the choices you make on how you deal with the world defines who you are, not how the world deals with you. It is funny thinking back, how it was a dog that taught me this.

During that year, I was on a travel break with my family and I saw this dog running along happily on the streets, wagging it’s tail and you can almost tell that it was smiling. There was something special about this particular dog though, it only had three legs. It must have lost one due to an accident or disease, and there it was running and surviving out in the streets, and being amazingly joyful about it. I told myself that if that dog can run with a leg missing, I’m going to run someday as well, and one day I will become a decathlete. I really wish I had taken a picture of that dog.

I was lucky to have met a whole lot of fantastic people whilst I was in the army and that itself deserve a separate blog post altogether. I focused on my rehab, started researching on the biomechanics of running and tried to find a way to be able to run without stressing my knee as much. 9 months later and loads of rehab and experimenting, I was able to jog pain free (for a limited distance though, but I figured the longest event for the decathlon was 1500m so that was good enough for me.)

One day I decided to attend a seminar by Tony Buzan, the inventor of Mind Maps(tm) and a bestselling author, who was in Singapore at that time. It was his books that first taught me many years ago to free my mind and so I was eager to have a chance to meet him. I went to get an autograph on my book and had a short chat with him and told him how I wanted to be a decathlete, and just like that he became my ‘mental coach’. He invited me to attend different training seminars he was conducting and followed my progress, even turning up to support me during the Singapore Open Track & Field Meet in 2007. Just in case you were wondering, this was a man who worked with other sports personalities such as Sir Steven Redgrave, 5 times Olympic Gold medallist, and there he was thinking that I would one day be a great decathlete. Thinking back I thought he must have been nuts, I was nowhere near being a decathlete back then and somehow he believed in me. And I guess it was at that point when I started to believe in myself, I started to believe that someday, I could be exactly what I set out to be. It’s funny how sometimes people can see things in you that you yourself cannot see, but thank you Tony. And as my first commercial sponsor you guys will always have my support for free. =)

Tony Buzan and Me

Tony Buzan, best selling author of 'Use Your Head' listed as one of the top 1000 greatest books of the past millenium by Waterstones. (Picture taken in 2007)

For more about Tony Buzan, his books and how Mind Maps(tm) can help you as well, please visit www.thinkbuzan.com to find out more.

Well my original plan was to go on and finish the story in one post, but it does seem a tad too long for a single post already. I will continue to post parts of the story as the week go by, so do stop by again to have a look.

Thank you and have a great week ahead!

To be continued…

Jump to Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 or Part 5.

Comments

  1. The military is full of catchphrases, mottos, words to inspire. No idea if pro athletes do that. But for all intents and purposes, rangers lead the way man. You know what I mean by that!

    Few days ago came the passing of MAJ Richard Winters at 92 years old. News only broke out today due to his request that the news be kept confidential until after the funeral.

    Dick Winters entered WWII on D-Day as a young 1st Lieutenant platoon commander and ended D+1 as a company commander and being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Here was a quiet, simple man from Pennsylvania emerging from the war with a reputation of leading from the front, never shying away from difficult situations or danger, always thinking of his men and stepping into leadership roles readily when needed. Winters ended WWII a Major and the battalion commander of 2nd battalion. He is the now-famous protagonist in Band of Brothers.

    It might have been purely coincidental how Winters ended up a hero. After all, it all started when the plane of his company commander exploded thus elevating his position since he was next in line. Might have been purely coincidental how you ended up here too. But I hope, and I’m sure, that you will embrace it with both arms and rise to the challenge. In time, you will find greatness too.

    A bit long winded, but reading and watching about Dick Winters formed the foundation of why I do what I do today. So a bit emo he passed.

    • Yong Sheng says:

      Hey bro, thank you for your well wishes. You know I watched the HBO special with interviews with people from the real Easy company a while back and I can tell you there was more than once that it brought tears to my eyes. Being once a soldier now makes you look at it in a whole new light and you truely appreciate what those men had to go through. Just like me you too chose your path. I believe you will be a great commander my friend and I look up to you for believing in something strong enough that you’re willing to die for it. So cheers bro, Rangers lead the way.

  2. Hi Mr Tan! I know you probably haven’t seen my name in ages. I haven’t spoken to you in ages either man!

    Anyway here I am, in office going about my monotonous business before chancing upon your blog. It’s really great to see you conceive a dream and then sticking to it with immense passion and determination. All I want to say is, 加油, old friend! (:

    • Yong Sheng says:

      Hello Ms Aw!! It’s been too long really since we’ve last met my dear old friend. Tell you what, this summer when I get back we’ll get all the old House Comm-ers together for one more hurrah shall we? Anyway thank you for your well wishes and all the best for your career! =)

  3. Hey Yong Sheng,

    You always fascinate me with your desire. You are so driven and full of energy!

    Though I have known you for years, reading your words from your blog has shown me the side of you that we seldom get to see when we’re together.

    Great work bro, I admire your determination and perseverance. Can’t wait to see you back home. I’ll be there for your race and witness the moment you carry the Singapore flag on your back (:

  4. hey yong sheng. i had the privilege to chance upon your blog and it is truly inspiring. a brief introduction about myself: for 6 years i’ve been a canoeist, i would consider myself a decent one, being able to win medals and such. however, for 4 out of that 6 years i’ve always wanted to join track -i’m a decent sprinter, but not exceptional- after reading your blog, i’ve given serious thought to joining the track scene in SG (i’m currently an NSF though). any tips?

    • Yong Sheng says:

      Hi Seet! Thanks for your kind words. My advice would be to do it if you want to! Your best bet would be to join a university track team after your NS days as Singapore’s Senior track and field scene outside a school environment is not well developed, in the mean time, there is a SAFSA meet that happens every year, you should talk to your division’s sports officer (or something like that from what I can remember) to try and represent your battalion. I think to get into sprinting from a non-sprinting background, learning proper sprinting mechanics is essential, and you do it by doing loads of drills in the correct form, high knees, heel flicks, a skips, b skips, those kind of things (a good guide would be doing 5 drills, twice each over 10 metres progressing to 5 drills twice each over 20 metres). Finding a good coach is essential and as mentioned your best bet would be in a school environment. Another thing you can do in the meantime is to start building running fitness by doing strides (faster than normal jogging pace holding a good sprinting form) on grass to start building sprinting fitness, something like 10x100m off walk back recoveries should get you started. Do make sure you get properly warmed up before each session, doing dynamic stretching to loosen up the limbs and joints, drills after and then the main session of sprinting, finishing with some core and stability work. Most importantly, have fun on your journey!

      Cheers =)
      YS

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