ATHLETES in Sarawak are among those seriously affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO). Without regular training, their fitness level and competitive sharpness will naturally drop. Many, however, have found a way to stay in shape during the lockdown.
Swimmers, for instance, are working out at home. Although dry-land training is significantly different from that in the water, it’s still the best alternative for them. In this first of a two-part feature story, The Borneo Post got in touch with some swimmers to share their experience.
“The performances of swimmers will drop even after missing a few days of training, let alone over a month,” the 20-year-old said. He is now doing some form of physical exercise to minimise the impact of a drop in performance.
He stays focused by keeping to a mental training routine, saying: “I always imagine myself swimming – something like visualisation and meditation which has the effect of creating muscles memory.” Hii said as swimming involves whole body movement, it is important to build up the core power of both upper and lower body.
He achieves this by doing push-ups and sit-ups (100 reps each session) and squats.
His routine also includes Tabata workout, a kind of high-intensity interval training – 120 times double-under rope skipping to build explosive power and 15 minutes of small-area running plus high-heels running for stamina.
He spends at least six sessions – an hour each – per week working out, hoping to be in good form by the time he can go back to the pool.
Hii said he was inspired to take up the sport by his father who, in his younger days, won the bronze medal in the South East Asia (SEA) Age Group Swimming Championship.
Hii’s goal is a top-three finish in the men’s 50m freestyle in Sukma 2020 – now postponed to next year.
He is not discouraged by the re-scheduling of Sukma as he sees it as an opportunity to have more time to prepare.
Hii said he is strongly motivated by the incredible feats of his idol Michael Phelps, the American swimming superstar who won an unprecedented total of 28 multi-discipline gold medals in his swimming career, spanning four successive Olympic Games – Athens (2004), Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016).
On his own progress, he said he had taken another step closer to fulfilling his goal – a top-three finish in the men’s 50m freestyle at the upcoming Sukma. At the last Malaysia Invitation Age Group Meet, before the Covid-19 outbreak, he took the bronze medal in the 100m freestyle with a personal best time of 53.54 sec.
That gave his confidence a big boost and he is now itching for a good fight to realise his Sukma target.
He is entered for a meet in Singapore in July but that now has to wait due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Darren Leong who has been swimming since he was eight, said exercises on dry land – skipping and pulling – at home were all he could do for now. With his coach only able to guide him remotely, he admitted it was pretty challenging.
He said he had lost a lot of stamina and his biggest worry was not being at his best when the next competition comes around. He also regrets missing the SEA Age Group Meet which has been rescheduled.
“It breaks my heart whenever I think of it because I was eagerly looking forward to it after being selected to join the Malaysian squad for the competition.
“It was supposed to be my biggest achievement at this stage of my development,” the 12-year-old lamented. He noted that several other meets in and outside the state had also been postponed.
“Of course, I miss the competition and my swimming friends,” he said.
Darren got into the sport when his parents brought him to a Learn-to-Swim course which teaches beginners how to swim and rescue themselves and others in the water.
A few months later, he was approached by a coach who asked if he would like to join a swimming club and train with the members.
Since Darren loves swimming, he agreed to sign up together with his brother. After the first trial, they figured they could go “permanent and intensive.” Soon, they found themselves swimming seven times a week.
Darren said his aim is to represent Malaysia, adding: “A serious swimmer will always strive to beat his or her own personal best times. I understand there’s no shortcut to success. To be a champion, it’s hard all the way.”
His most recent achievements included the Group 3 Best Boys Award in the Sarawak Age Group Meet and three gold and one bronze medals in the National Age Group Championship.
Jumps, pulls and skips
Fourteen-year-old Nathan Tan Hak Li has been taking part in swimming competitions for five years. To stay in shape during the lockdown, he keeps to a daily training routine comprising 50 jumps, 100 pulls and 200 skips.
According to him, how he took up swimming was quite simple. He just gave it a try and was instantly hooked.
“Of course, I make sure I balance my swimming and my studies,” he said. His advice to swimmers who aspire to be champions is love the water, love the sport and be ready to train hard.
Julius Abbas Ferdinand Janting, also 14, has been in competitive swimming for six years.
For him, working out daily is a must to stay in top shape. He does squats and sit-ups at home every day during the lockdown.
He admitted it was difficult to pass the time confined to the home and he misses the company of friends and swim-mates.
He took up swimming because his mom encouraged him to learn a life skill. At first, he felt it was a waste of time and wanted to quit. But a cousin, who is a competitive swimmer, changed his mind.
“He inspires me and I want to emulate him,” Julius said.
So far he has won a gold medal in the 50M backstroke (Boys Group C) in the Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr Wong Soon Kai Championship in Nov last year.
His next goal is to compete in Sukma.
He advised his fellow swimmers not to regard working out as a burden and to have fun while training.
Julius also loves waterpolo and is making a gradual transition to this tough water sport with his heart set on representing Sarawak in the Malaysian School Sports Council (MSSM) Waterpolo Championship in the future.