On SEA Games 2015

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So I made it. (Super long post warning.)

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. – Babe Ruth

After 10 years I actually made it to my first SEA Games representing Singapore. Not for the decathlon event though, but for the shot put event.

It’s been a long break since my last post in Krabi, so many things happened along the way and every time I wanted to write an entry I ended up waiting too long and something else happens and the moment is gone.

Anyway, so here I am back in Loughborough in November 2015, back where it all became real and the journey really started for me. (Here for a break from work.) Decided to take some time out and write it out fully.

So where do we begin?

Well first a super quick summary for those who are new.

I dreamt about being a decathlete and going to the Olympics at 18, 18 was a long time ago (that was in 2005 to be exact, so 10 years ago). Back then I was doing throws but really not anywhere even near decent to start. Ditched everything, decided to chase the dream, went to Loughborough University from Singapore to do a degree in Sports Science with Management not knowing any better, found out how incredibly hard decathlon actually was and how limited my talent was. Didn’t managed to go to the Olympics (missed it by like a thousand miles). Came back to Singapore after 2012. Felt lost for quite a bit, went through a really difficult period towards the end of 2013 and start of 2014. Decided to get myself back together and build myself back up. Started training in 2014 with the aim to go to the 2015 SEA games. Made it. Kinda.

That is the super summarised version of what happened. One thing I kinda wish I did more was to blog more during that period, but anyhow, here’s my best recollection of what happened.

The Plan

An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
– Sun Tzu

The quest to get onto the SEA games squad for 2015 kinda started in 2014 when Lance came over and we had a good chat about launching our campaign to qualify or to get selected for it. There actually was a lot of strategic considerations going into this. Lance was a 400m specialist before and had a long spell dealing with injuries and there were quite a few younger fast guys that could run around the track.

Being the home games in 2015, we thought there is a good chance they would field 1 or 2 athletes in every single event, regardless of qualifying scores, thus strategically it would be a good bet to try to get selected for the event that no one else was doing, the decathlon.

I knew that no one else really was training for it, I’ve heard there were a few guys that tried, but a lot of people underestimate the challenge of just preparing for the decathlon event. The technical challenge of acquiring the necessary skill sets, the logistical challenge of equipment and finding venues to train at, the fact that there wasn’t any multi-events coach in Singapore meant that for anyone else it would be huge challenge.

Luckily for us, the advantage we had going in was that I actually knew and could coach the decathlon event, had most of the equipment necessary, was prepared to spend the time and effort to train for it. So we laid down our plans sometime in June/July of 2014 and we went for it.

The Grind

Training as full time working adults has it’s whole range of challenges, time is not on your side and you got a ton of other responsibilities, but end at the end of the day, nobody cares about your excuses, so just get to the track and get the job done.

When you’re a student and in your early twenties, you can afford to spend 5 hours a day at the track with little else to do, but when you’re working a full time job or running your own business, you obviously do not have those luxuries. If you make it a priority though, you’ll then make time for it. There’s that saying that you can’t find more time to exercise, or in that case anything else grand you would like to do, you have to make time for it. It’s true.

We trained from 6pm to 10pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was an active recovery day and Saturday was Pole Vaulting at 745am in the morning followed usually by interval runnings. Knowing that biggest challenge for Lance (he was still in relatively good running shape) was that he did not have the technical skill set to do the technical events (Hurdles, Pole Vault and Discus), I designed the program to maximise our time getting as much experience within the short few months we had to prepare.

I knew that when I did that I was making a sacrifice in terms of my own performance because myself on the other hand, had the technical skills, but lacked the fitness. I thought if it really boiled down to them selecting only 1 person, Lance had a better chance to score higher given his running background. And if it’s about Singapore putting on the best show it could come the SEA games, I was ok with that.

And so we began the grind.

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Above: First time training in the new stadium in September 2014. Lance here holding the pole.

When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. – Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Things were going well, we had loads of fun training together, and more importantly, things were going according to plan. We finished a low key decathlon in January 2015 SAA Series 1 with the goal of just finishing it without injury to test ourselves and put in a score. I didn’t score well but the body actually felt that it was keeping up in one piece. Right after finishing that decathlon I flew off to Krabi and wrote that last blog post.

Things were going according to plan until late Feb/early March, and then the old injury struck back.

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Above: Hello old friend. Knee pains, we meet again.

I’ve had knee pains for a long long time, I tried to manage it as best I could, but somewhere in Feb and March, it got pretty bad. I couldn’t really sprint, pushing off at angles caused sharp pains which resulted that I couldn’t hold any sort of drive phase. I did the best I could and worked extensively with my physio Sharon (from moving spaces, awesome physio do check them out at http://movingspace.sg/) to get myself back together. And after quite a bit of work we figured out that it was my left hip joint was having mobility issues that then caused the knee to hurt because the hip wasn’t rotating properly.

Still, I guess it was a little too late. The qualifying window for the SEA games was until the end of March and the competition that we intended to put out our best scores was during the Malaysian Open meet in March.

Regardless, we went, had a great trip and managed to help Lance get round to a PB score.

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Above: The Malaysia Open crew, from left, Justina (Pole Vault), Lance (Decathlon), Sharon (Team/Investment Manager), Me.

Myself however, was just struggling to get through. I just didn’t have the power to sprint or jump with my left knee and hip still bothering me. I went round the two days alright, but it was more of just finishing the decathlon event rather than trying for any scores.

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Above: Got him through the finish line.

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Above: That’s what it’s all about. 

My score was about 4100pts, lower than the January scores that I posted when I was just conserving myself to get through the two days. What was done was done though, and it was up to the selection committee and Singapore National Olympic Committee to make the final decision.

Defeat

Weeks went by, and the call finally came.

I didn’t get selected.

Looking at the scores they thought I simply scored too low (which is true and I agree with their call) and decided just to send Lance as our representative.

Sigh.

I must admit that even though I thought it was likely to happen, when the call came and when I knew the decision was made, I was disappointed. Having spent the last 10 years trying, only to come up short once again, was well disappointing to say the least, but I knew it was the right call from the selection team.

However, as a result of of me competing and training for the decathlon, I’ve somehow became the second ranked shot put thrower in Singapore and they’ve selected me to take the no.2 slot for the shot put event.

My first SEA Games Team Singapore selection, well I couldn’t say no to that.

Sometimes if you work hard enough and long enough, you get a little bit lucky.

I got a little bit lucky.

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. -Thomas Jefferson

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Above: We made it!

When Things Don’t Go According To Plan, Make Another One Quick.

To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities. -Bruce Lee

Now as a shot putter, the game has changed for me, I now wanted to be the best shot putter I could be in 12 weeks. So I changed up my training program, did a bit of thinking, thought my best chance was to first bulk up fast in the first 6 weeks, forgoing the technical side of throws, then focus on the remaining 6 weeks to switch into a power phase and throw more to get the technical movement back in shape.

I offered to continue coaching Lance and train alongside him to ensure that he could score well during the SEA games itself as well.

Bulking was the name of the game, and what better way than to find the experts of bulking, bodybuilders.

Starting training with Sha (bodybuilding.sg) and gosh, body building training was hard hard work. It was the first few times that I felt like throwing up in the gym and had forearms so pumped that it felt like it was going to explode.

And boy did hit work, I managed to get from about 85kg to 90kg in those 6 weeks.

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Above: Hard work pays. Thanks Sha, for the brilliant 6 weeks.

And off I went into the SEA games 2015 village to begin my SEA games experience as part of Team Singapore.

Living The Dream

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. -Eleanor Roosevelt

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Above: Opening Ceremony of SEA Games 2015, really emotional one for me, I guess nobody realised how long and how much ups and downs, heartbreaks and self-doubts it took for me to get here, but there I was.

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Above: My accreditation pass, my team kit and my number tag.

Back in 2012 during the London Olympics I travelled down to the Olympic village and remember seeing all the national athletes wearing their team kits walking around with their accreditation passes, looking at them thinking well, that’s that and I’ve failed in reaching my dreams, never going to be able to walk around with a kit and a tag. 3 years later, I was walking around the SEA games village in my team kit and a tag. I guess sometimes dreams do come true.

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Above: They even put us in a 5 star hotel, The Swiss Hotel, for 3 weeks! With a million dollar view like this, what more can I say?

A little side note here, in the hard times is when you really see people’s character. Those 3 weeks in the games village with competition stress and such, you really got to see what kind of people they really were. It’s always easy to be good and all when times are easy, but when it boils down to the hard bits, that’s when you see people’s real character show, and I must say there were some less than stellar experiences. Whilst I shall not get down into the detail, I must say for a big majority of the squad they were nothing but an outstanding stella crew.

And then we began, competing in the amazing new stadium that Singapore has built.

My turn came, I stepped into the arena, stepped into the circle, and threw with all my might for 6 throws.

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Above: Brilliant photo by Red Sports.

Truth be told, I kinda wildly whacked all 6 attempts. I knew I was in good shape because I was throwing easily over the 12m mark in warm up, so I saw no reason of holding back and made all 6 attempts a maximal effort attempt (unlike during the decathlon where you get 6 throws and tend to be more controlled to ensure that you actually get a score).

I knew I wasn’t exactly competitive against the other guys who were all specialist throwers, I was a decathlete put in to compete with the big boys. But I had my own personal benchmark which was to have a distance that would have won the shot put event for the decathlon.

I did.

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Above: My best throw of the night, 12.55m, which was actually 1cm off my lifetime PB which I threw during a decathlon in England back in 2011-12.

The 12.56m throw I did back in England was a fluke though, it was the only time i ever went above 12m. So the 3 throws that were recorded (I fouled 3) were respectively my 2nd, 3rd and 4th best throws in my life, I can’t quite complain about that.

Even managed to cheer Lance on through his last event, the 1500m.

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Above: Even managed to cheer Lance on inside the track whilst he ran his last event, the 1500m!

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Above: And that’s it, it’s done, my event is over. Back into the tunnel with my shot put team mate Kai Yuen, bright young guy who’s now pursuing his university education and throwing at UCLA. I’m sure he’s going to have an amazing time and go far in life. This kind of things you can kinda tell.

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Above: Photo with Lance after he finished the decathlon, proposed to his girlfriend and get mobbed by his friends and family.

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Above: That’s all folks! It’s over!

Just like that, it came and it went. 10 years of preparation down to just those few moments.

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Above: The class of 2015, photo by Singapore Athletics. It’s a special photo this one.

I still remember how we were all gathered at the track at the last day of the track events. We knew, as a team, we done ourselves proud. The individual battles that we fought, we gave it our all and supported one another. We could hold our heads up high knowing that we were part of something special.

It’s crazy isn’t it? How this journey that I tried to capture in this blog almost 5 years ago ended the way it did. For those few moments when I had the flag on my chest in the arena, I did everything I could to try and make my country proud.

All those years of work, blood, sweat and tears. Yup it’s true, as cliche as it sounds, it was worth it.

Even though I didn’t win any medals, even though I didn’t exactly achieve my goals. I gave it everything I could.

And for all those experiences, I wouldn’t trade the world for it.

Man In The Arena

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt

I wrote in an instagram post quite a while back about this, and it still remains true. I hope whoever reading this be, for lack of a better word inspired, to actually go out there and apply yourself. Don’t just think about what you could do in life but actually to go all out and find out.

I won’t lie to you, it’s shit hard. For 10 years I was struggling like hell to make sense out of it all, but looking back you realise its those struggles that define you and shape you into something better.

It’s so easy to give up, so easy to give in, holding on to your dreams and working day after day with no end in sight can quickly suck the life out of you. I’m not sure how I stuck to it for as long as I did, but in any case, here are somethings that I thought I’d share so as to hope that you have an easier time than I did and manage to get further than I ever could.

The Blueprint (sort of)

1. Dream

Have a goal, have a vision, have something. It really can be anything, but you have got to aspire towards something especially if you are young. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself swept into leading a life that popular culture dictate to you and miss out on a big part of what life could be. If I haven’t had that dream of becoming a decathlete it would have never pushed to me to go out of my comfort zone, make the decision to study overseas, find the motivation to work towards earning the resources that I needed to do what I wanted to do, which ultimately lead to me running my own businesses and investment portfolios now. It all started with a dream. And heck, I didn’t even exactly achieve a big part of it.

2. Be Strategic

Have a plan. You got to think, what are the best chances for me to succeed in achieving what I want to achieve? Where in the world has the best opportunities for me to get to where I want? What are the best odds of getting the resources I need? It’s hard enough already, so make your life slightly easier by actively training to improve your odds of success. Strategy matters. Don’t go blindly knocking down every wall for the sake of knocking down walls. Concentrate on knocking down the ones that you think will matter the most.

3. There is no substitute for action, so get to work.

You’ll be amazed at the amount of hard work it takes to be successful in achieving whatever you want to achieve. If anything being in Loughborough and actually getting to know and be with world class athletes, I came to realise the amount of planning, thinking and just plain ass simple hard work that it takes to get good. There are no shortcuts to this. If you’re just in it for the good times thinking that you’ll be able to get through easy, life has a great way of changing your mind.

4. Keep it simple, get good at the basics.

I think we as human beings tend to like to over-complicate things. A lot of high level training here involves very basic movement patterns and training philosophies, it’s just really really well executed. I’ve seen people back in Singapore try some amazingly complicated stuff for training when they simply haven’t mastered the basics, it makes no sense in doing that. This applies to other aspects of life as well, may it be in business and investments etc. Keep it simple, get good at the basics, and that is hard enough already.

Which leads me to my next point…

5. The hard thing about hard things, is that it’s hard.

It’s ironic. The sooner you accept that life is hard, the easier it gets. Trust me on that one.

If it was easy everybody will be good, everyone will have their lives in order, be billionaires and happy fulfilling lives and living their dreams.

But most people don’t, so go figure.

6. Some mistakes can be fatal, try your best to avoid it.

Fill a bowl with water.
Pour the bowl of water into the ground.
Say sorry to the bowl.
Did the water come back?
No?
Try picking the water back into the bowl.
Was it easy?

You’ll be amazed at how easily you can screw your life over as you get older.

Time passes and life moves forwards. It’s a lot easier to avoid mistakes than to make it, and so whilst it’s inevitable that you make a few, try not to make any major ones.

7. Everything is but a passing moment, if you’re not enjoying it now, you never will.

Goals are important, but the moment the goal actually arrives, it goes just as quickly. You see it in sportsmen after major games, or when they retire, quite often they actually go into depression.

The concept of now is a difficult one to explain, but your experiences will just be a collection of moment of nows. You will have no control over the future, no power over the past. The moment, no matter how great, will pass as well. It’s how to live day to day that matters the most.

And that leads me to the final point, that on a day to day basis:

8. Be a good person.

At the end of the day, the truth is that you might make it, you might not. Somethings are really down to luck.

What you do have complete control though, is how you live and behave as a person in face of the circumstances.

So be the person that you would be proud of, a person that does good in this world, that nourishes relationships, that build societies, that enables others to become better. Those are aspirations that are truly worth living up to.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has put together a brilliant video that pretty much sums up more stuff that I want to say beautifully, so do watch that as well to know the mindset of getting great.

Where Do We Go From Here?

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Above: Picture from Hyde Park London from a week ago when I was jogging round it.

Well for those that follow me on Instagram would know that I said I am retiring from decathlon, that’s partially true. In a sense, I’ve retired from competitive athletics, I’m no longer trying to make any squad or represent my country for any more international meets etc.

I kinda knew I was done with this dream getting to represent my country in an international competition, there are other dreams that I have and it is time to live those, but it didn’t mean I would stop training or keeping a healthy lifestyle, I still enjoyed the sport.

A few months of offseason break after the SEA games and I have started training again. This time I’m taking my time, just sorting out the issues that I’ve found, making sure I have my mobility in my hips and hopefully as a result solve the problem that was causing my knee to hurt that much. (Check out Dewey Nelson’s youtube channel for great mobility exercises that I follow and built into my routine)(Added 4/1/15: Do join us at Anytime Fitness Kallang Wave, a gym that I started with my partners, where we practice these fundamental ground up training approach to fitness and performance).

Beyond track one thing I’ve noticed through the years is that I’ve kinda mellowed down. I did some reflecting the other day and watching Arnold’s videos made me realise one thing, somewhere along the line I’ve kinda lost the winning drive.

The desire to win. That used to drive me quite a bit and I’m not sure why along the way in this 10 years I’ve kinda lost it.

Maybe it’s because after this experience of chasing decathlon I’ve learnt to accept the limits of my ability, accepting that I can’t win. That’s rubbish isn’t it?

So yeah, time to sharpen up, time to be the man set off to be.

And that’s for me.

For you? I hope you have an amazing adventure ahead of you.

Believe in yourself, work hard, go out there and live.

Be whoever you want to be.

Look forwards and please, hold on to your dreams.

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p.s. Thought it’d be cool to link through to some of the post I’ve written in the past 5 years. It’s quite amazing how when I look back these are slices of time that resulted in who I am today. First Post in 2011, Last post of 2011… Will add some more later as I go through the previous posts.

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