A head full of dreams leaves no space for fears. (Atkinson)
A swimming race championship is coming up again at PADE, Shah Alam, this weekend. This time round, it is for the novice racers. While many people may see this as a “play-play” (a Malaysian version of “not serious”) competition; I assure you, it is far from that. The swimmers taking part – Yes, they are athletes.
“The seed that has been nurtured under the soil for weeks or months, began to break the surface of the soil and sprout shoots and leaves”. It is at a meet like this where children who have been going through the various stages in learning to swim, compete while having fun at the same time. It is also a time where state, national and possibly world champion athlete potentials are born.
Now, not too long ago, I knew of this 6 year old girl who started going for swimming lessons once a week. She absolutely hated water touching her face. She cried whenever she had to go for swimming lessons all the time. In fact, she wanted to stop lessons.
Her father made a deal with her: “You continue to go for swimming lessons. The moment you can swim better than me; you can stop going for lessons”. And the little girl agreed.
From going for lessons once a week; she got a lot better at swimming and was going for lessons 3 – 5 times a week not too long after the pact she made with her father. She could swim a lot better than him by then. In fact, she could swim all the four strokes of swimming, well. And she had no intentions to quit swimming.
At age 9, she said, “I want to become World Champion”. Her father said to her that she could become World Champion if she followed her heart and put in the effort.
As time, went on, she became a state swimmer, representing Selangor; and was amongst the top breaststroke racers for her age group in the country and region. When she was 18 years old, she left for the U.S. to further her tertiary education. There, she represented her university on their swim team; bringing many wins and successes for the team.
Now, she may not have become World Champion officially, but it helped her get to where she is.
But she has become “World Champion” to all those young children starting out in life, not being able to fully comprehend that they, too; can become what their hearts desire, if they follow it. An example of this that comes to mind was when she competed in an International Open meet in Kuching, Sarawak -Malaysia; in 2016. When she raced her races, there were a few young 8 or 9 year old “little league” swimmers who cheered her on top of their high pitch voices. She had become their idol.
It was not easy. as huge sacrifices were made along the way. The sport was top priority.
She never boasted about her successes and never let it get to her head. She uses her experience to help others, in any way; even if it was the littlest of ways. If there were adversities, she would find proper solutions to them.
That makes her World Champion.
To all swimmers at the Selangor meet this weekend: Wishing you a great future in this sport. Have fun!
Dedicated to the ones that make this happen:
Parents and siblings of the athlete of all sports. They are the ones who have to almost equally be with the athlete; make sacrifices with their time by sending and picking the child (children) up from training, making it a point that the athlete attends all practice, buy and invest in all apparel and necessary things for the sport.
Laura Kristen Atkinson
Coaches Soon, Wendy, Ben Lee of the Subang Jaya Community Centre Club – where it all began in 2007.
Coach Mark Chua, Coach Marilyn Chua, Coach Ong Jin Kooi, Coach Dr Molly Duesterhaus (Millikin University), Coach Mokhtar.
Alan Ian Atkinson, Writer, Author, Storyteller