VOLUNTEER FOR DUTY

As the Selangor novice swimming championships in Shah Alam fast approaches (starts tomorrow October 15th, actually); there will be a build-up of excitement varying in degree from being nervous as a swimmer competing for the first time, or second time…maybe it is his (her) 5th or 6th competition. The other end of the degree of excitement is the swimmer that cannot wait to race even though it is his first time doing so.

While the athletes, their parents and coaches often take center stage in any sport and competition, a major component of any competition are the technical officials. These are the people that run the competition. In recent times, you would probably have heard of technical officials involved and mired in controversy with how they carry out their duties. That sport is Formula 1. Not in swimming or if a situation ever does arise; it is very rare.

I can give my views more on swimming due to my personal experiences. The technical officials involved on deck (at the swimming pool area) are the referees, race starters, judges and officials on both end of each of the 10 lanes of the swimming pool. Then, there are the marshals who register the swimmers before each race and get them ready in their respective lane positions before moving them to their lanes to ready for the race.

An integral part of the officials team are the officials in charge of hospitality. These are some ladies who ensure that food and drinks are ready lunch, morning and afternoon breaks. Experience from the Selangor run competitions is that they usually don’t stop for lunch breaks, more so when there are many heats in each event. The organizers know the athletes, their parents and coachers are usually at the pool as early as 6.30am and try to end the competition each day, as early as possible. The day can end at 7.00pm or 8.00pm if there are many heats in each event and if there are several major rest breaks.

There are also the announcers and IT people (ensuring the results are up on the notice board almost as soon as the race is over).

Being a technical official most definitely has its perks, the best of which is first hand experience and involvement in the championship itself. No duty is too small that it lacks merit. Every technical official has to play his or her role in order for the meet competition to be a success. Parents are encouraged to volunteer themselves for duty as technical officials. You can take up a Grade III Technical Officials’ course (as I did), if you intend to serve as an official, long term.

The swimmers – ultimately they are the stars of the “show”. Some start as early as 5 years old and work their way up. In their innocence, they are entertainers out of the water, as well. Some years ago; I had a young English girl who was probably around 7 or 8 years old, come up to me and started chatting. I was a marshal at that championship. She talked about her elder brother and pointed out where her mum was in the spectators’ stand. It was her way of overcoming her nervousness as it was her first race in her first championship that she was taking part in.

Laura, when she was a novice swimmer.

I had young children come up to me (and they still do), asking me to help show them which event, heat and lane there are racing in, or if they had missed it. Many come up to me after their race asking how they did. To me, they are all winners.

The highlight for these young athletes is before and after their races, in the secondary pool; where they get to play with their friends. Their laughter and smiles on their faces – epic!

NOVICE ATHLETE – WHERE IT ALL BEGINS

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.

NOTES:
Alan Ian Atkinson, Writer, Author, Storyteller

The President’s Cup, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu; Nov 11, 2012

MORE THAN YOUR BEST

At the age of 42, George Sand, the famous 19th century French novelist, was a broken and depressed human being. (She had adopted the male pseudonym to cover the fact that her novels were written by a woman.) Her personal life at this time had fallen apart and she was the victim of severe personal criticism from powerful and influential people of France.

One day, feeling low and melancholy, she wandered into the woods near her home where she had played as a child. Seated there on a boulder she thought over the past, and tried to analyze her personal situation. After some time she reached a conclusion that was to go on and write another 50 plays and novels. The decision was this:

“Henceforth I shall accept what I am and what I am not. With my limitations and my gifts, I shall go on using life as long as I am in this world and afterwards. Not to use life – that alone is death.”

There are times we lose sight or even get distracted along the way to the destination, i.e. our goals; our ambitions; we set out to reach. It seems like forever before we reach these goals or ambition.

There are people who have arrived at their destination, missing the deadline they set. Some people may have arrived at their destination only to find out that it was not what they envisaged it to be.

Many become disillusioned or even get depressed like George Sand. “Now what? Where do I go from here?”, they ask themselves.

If or whenever we feel that whatever we do seems to be heading in “no direction” or we begin to question the meaning in our life; it is good to put a “pause” in all we do, take a step back, reflect.

Not reaching a personal goal by a deadline does not mean you have failed. It may mean you did not set the right date. We may not be experienced enough to match the speed of getting or achieving our goals to the date we expect to complete them. It is ok. If you feel very strongly about what you set out to do and did all you could, more than your best; than you have succeeded. Then, start again, aim high, set a new date to achieve your new goal.

Your goals must be clearer than your soup. Dr. Andrew Goh, an excellent motivational speaker from Singapore; always stressed this point whenever he gave motivational talks. addressing insurance agents and other businessmen.

Do not set too easy a target deadline. A person’s fiercest competitor is himself or herself. Not anything else or anyone else. So, when you set a target, it should be higher than the one you last achieved. Only you, yourself; will know that target.

“Do my best” is for whiners – an excuse in disguise for not putting everything you’ve got into achieving your goals. You have to do more than just your best. You have to give it “your all”.

Then, armed with hope, a new zest for life, an inspiration, a whole lot of giving and bunches of smiles; you are ready. Press the “play” button in your life and share in abundance the talents you have.

NOTES:
Broth and Bouillon
Broth, or bouillon, is a common clear soup. Broths come in a variety of flavours, including chicken, turkey, beef, vegetable and mushroom. Bouillon can also come in a powdered form, and stock cubes are a famous example of a powdered broth or bouillon base.9 Mar 2022

Simon Sinek – “Metrics Aren’t Absolute”

LAURA

RCIA does have its perks, so it looks. In late 1993, this young lady, attending one of the two RCIA groups; caught my eye. I was one of the facilitators for the group.

Visited Jeannie in her hometown in Kampar, Perak during Chinese New Year in February, 1994. Spent the whole day with her. She took me sightseeing to all the local spots, including the railway station.

The Kampar railway station must have done the trick.

The Mandarin ducks.
One of the countries Jeannie and I visited on our first trip to Europe, was The Netherlands. This was part of a European tour we caught from London, England. So, on this trip in The Netherlands, we toured Amsterdam and stayed for the night. Our hotel was by one of the many canals Amsterdam is famous for. Our room was on the ground floor, with a large sliding door leading out to a sort of garden and beyond that was the canal.

We saw many Mandarin ducks in the garden. So, we crushed some cracker biscuits and started feeding these ducks with the crumbs. We soon ran out of crumbs and walked back to our room. The Mandarin ducks followed us back, too. We had to close the sliding door quickly to prevent the ducks from coming in. The ducks were pecking at the glass door and only went away after a long while.

This was a bedtime story that Laura loved to listen. Almost every night for many years, she would ask for this same story. She always had the same enthusiasm about it and never got tired of it.

Laura, this is the first time, ever; you are seeing the pictures below of these Mandarin ducks. Searched high and low for them until I found them.

The story of the mandarin ducks.
The mandarin ducks coming up the porch of our room in Amsterdam, Holland.

9.15am, Wednesday, June 27th, 2001; a child was born. We named her Laura Kristen Atkinson

What joy! What blessings! Laura Kristen Atkinson

Laura’s baptism, August 2001. With us are her godparents; Dato’ Seri Jeffrey and Datin Seri Joyce Raymond.

Laura: I thought he was supposed to see that I sleep.

Anne Reburn: I want To Hold Your Hand

Smiles

Camera shy. Not really.
Yes, I am cute.

With Grandma and Grandpa Atkinson

Love

About to show her “Zhang Ziyi” martial arts stunts. She’s dressed for it. Location: A park in Perth, Western Australia.
Christmas 2007: Christmas caroling with her cousin, Sarah.

She’s up to something! ❤️
On one of our river cruises in Perth, Western Australia
Check out my shades

Freemantle, Western Australia

Arriving at Clark International Airport, The Phillipines in 2005

Beaconhouse Kindergarten. Laura was one of the 7 pioneer students for the Beaconhouse brand in Malaysia.
All of the June birthday celebrants. Laura, Kenneth de Souza and Joel D’Cruz are all on June 27th.

Graduation from Beaconhouse pre-school in 2007.

With her cousin Justin Ow.

One for the camera

…and another😏😉❤️

The competitor in her.
Ye-e-e-ees..sss…

At the Ferrari store, opposite Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II , Duomo; in Milan, Italy.

In Venice, Italy; during the Carnevale di Venezia (Italian for The Carnival of Venice) An annual festival that ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Laura drew this with an app on my Samsung Note 2, when she was 10 years old.

Club Med beach in Terengganu, Malaysia

Cousins from the Ong side.
Cousins from the Ong side.

Music graduation.

Laura with her grandparents.
Having ice-cream at Patisfrance in Taipan, USJ Subang Jaya.

Sweet 16, with cousins and friends from the teens group at Sunday School, church and swimmers from her swim team.

With the teens from church.
Swim teammates

She’s ready to par- teh…

In Malacca, on one of the swimming championship competition weekends. Shopping for yummy stuff.

Home was more at the pool and all the swim races and championships.

Overall champion
The Selangor team

Joy

With Coach Mark Chua and Selangor teammates at the Bukit Jalil National Aquatic Centre, Malaysia.

With cousins, and Rachel Arnold (3rd From left). Tim is Alana’s husband.
Winning the Japanese International School cross-country race.

Laura’s Confirmation at St. Thomas More Church, Subang Jaya, Selangor.

With Archbishop Julian Low. “Teresa” is Laura’s chosen confirmation name.

Just a small part of her medal tally.

Fun with us, her parents. 😁

Penang, part of her holiday visit of some of the states in Malaysia before moving to the U.S. to further her tertiary studies.

In Penang.

In Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, for coffee.

Now, this is how to play billiards! About to take the perfect shot. At Arcadia, Cameron Highlands.
Leaving on a jetplane. Won’t know when I’ll be back again. Leaving for the U.S.

Swimming for Millikin University Swimming.

Hauling medals and setting records for Millikin University Swimming
Us family, celebrating with Laura (Live – streaming. Laura is on the phone in Illinois) her 19th birthday.

Laura, with Janet Jin nee Danker in New York.
Just moved in about a month ago.

With her boyfriend, James.

As you can see from all these pictures; you have touched the lives of everyone; especially us; mummy and I.

Happy 21st birthday, Laura. What a super fantastic milestone. Mummy and I are so proud of you, for who you are. We wish you an awe-inspiring life, filled with all your dreams come true. We love you.❤️❤️❤️

Himesh Patel, Lily James: I Want To Hold Your Hand; YesterdayMovieVEVO

JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF IT

Phew! Tiring. 24 events. Many, many heats. Jeannie and I got back from the Sports Excel Milo Junior Swimming Championship. It was a two day event held over the weekend (June 25 & 26, 2022) at the Selangor Aquatic Centre, Shah Alam. (1)

Laura, in her early days of competitive swimming. This was when she was In Girls, Group 4 (10 years and under) age group.
Laura, Girls, Group 4 (10 years and under) age group.

At the Registration room just before a race. Each swimmer has to present his or herself for registration before every race. If a swimmer fails to register during the “Calling time” before each race; that swimmer will be classified as “DNS” (Did Not Swim) and not allowed to swim for that race. The referee of the day can rule / bar that swimmer from swimming the rest of the events for that day.

Training, usually is between 5 to 8 times a week; depending on which level of competitive swimming a swimmer is at.

Laura, at her school track and field competition.
Laura, receiving a medal for one of the races she won at her school’s sports.
A common sight on most swimmers’ hands – “Tattooed hand” for the day with event numbers, what heats and which lane for each heat: Laura on one of the competitive swimming competition days.

In one of her early competitions when she was about 10 or 11 years old. Here, she warms up before the competition starts.

On one of those typical competition days. While waiting for her next event, Laura keeps herself occupied. Looking on is Mr. Foong, Elaine’s father. Elaine was in the same girls’ age group as Laura. A typical competition day can be from 6.00am in the morning until 10.30pm. The venue this competitive swimming competition was held in is the Malacca Aquatic Stadium at its sports complex.

A “must do” at any of the swimming competitions. Rush to first of all find the notice board where the official race results will be posted after the competition.

Laura, last swam in Malaysia in August, 2019. So, why are Jeannie and I still at it? Still at the swimming pool at competitions? The answer is simple. For one, the picture below says it all. Look at the smile on her face💖

Future World Champion. This was taken when Laura was around 10 years old.

Another reason is to give back to the sport in a way we can, when we can; for all that it has done for Laura in terms of being a part of her life-moulding process. The many people that have been a part of this process:
Coach Mark Chua, Coach Marilyn Chua, Coach Ong Jin Kooi, Coach Dr Molly Duesterhaus (Millikin University), Coach Mokhtar,
Parents: Richard Kok, Alan Teh, & Siew Toe, Peter & Ivy Chan, Connie & Ravi, Hannifah Yoong Yin Fah
Swimmers: Maryann Kok, Shaun Yap and all her teammates and swimmers from competitive teams, too; over the years in sport.
Squash G.O.A.T. : Datuk Nicol David, who took time to give Laura a pep talk on being champion when Laura was about 11 years old.

The list is non-exhaustive as there are many, many more people who have always been incredibly supportive over the years. We encourage this to carry on in the generations to come.

So, yeah. I guess it can be said that we can’t get enough.

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NOTES:
1. Shah Alam is in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.


Michael Jackson: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough