The article, “The Swim Athlete’s Future”, which was published here at http://www.leatherpotato.com on February 7th, 2023; was republished in Swimswam on February 10th.. I sent in the article to Swimswam to have them consider publishing as I believe that readers of this publication maybe able to resonate with these article.
There are three main groups who will be able to identify with this article: 1. The swim athletes: Through the various stages of their career; from beginner right up to world elite. 2. Parents. The sacrifices of their time, effort and money. 3. Non-swim fraternity. They may have a better insight of the life of a swim athlete.
Who is “SwimSwam”? SwimSwam news is a swimming news organization covering competitive swimming along with diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. SwimSwam launched as a website in March 2012 and quickly became the most-read swimming website in the world.
This may just be the sport parents are looking for their children. It encourages, discipline, competitiveness, fun and a sense of empowerment.
Lap after lap. 3, 4, 5 kilometers a day in the pool. Day after day…week after week…month after month.
At 9 years old, wanted to be world champion. Forgoing parties, events and other fun things.
In the water, lap after lap after lap. 20 meters…50 meter lengths.
School holidays and other holidays – the same.
Personal times for her 50 meter and 100 meter pet events kept dropping… So did the times of her other events. Kept on improving. Kept moving up the heats… From the 1st heat in the very beginning… Kept moving up the heat charts. When she reached the last 3 heats in her events at each championship race, the state athletes at that time started paying attention to her. A new kid on the block as competition.
13 years old. A big responsibility added on. Selected to represent the state team. Swim and training was now an average 9 times a week (twice each on Saturday and Sunday).
Kept on at it. Times kept improving. Was a contributor towards the team’s many championship wins. Within a short period of time, reached the top 3 in the country for her age group. Broke individual and relay records all along the way.
Graduated from high school. Went on to further her studies in the U.S.
Was on the university’s swimming team. Helped the university move up the swim charts. Set individual and relay records for the university.
There were many ups and downs, bumpy roads, disappointments, total excitement and joy throughout her swim athlete, school and university story. She held fast to her belief in herself and her goals. She had fun. It was not so much just about the “winning”. It was the “experiences” take away: winning yes, also teamwork, sharing and building relationships with various people along the way.
The role of parents? Support, love, care, support. Always be enthusiastic for your children. Driving them to 3-hour daily training and then back.
As parents, we have to continuously encourage them, even on the days they may be tempted by non-athletes to skip training. My wife and I use to tell our daughter, “your fiercest competitor will be training while you are thinking of missing it. The decision is yours. What is the end result you want?”
Be with them, cheering them on; even if it means spending 15 hours at a swim meet, each day on a three- or four-day championship.
Past and current swim athletes, when looking back; can relate to this “grueling lifestyle” during their swim career. When looking back they can smile, joke about the times their energy was completely spent and they still had 25 meters of the race to go, times when they lost and the many times when they won both in the pool and out of the pool. About the times they literally had fun.
Now, graduated – B. Sc. Entrepreneurship. Looking for a job in the U.S. With 16 years of swim athlete experience and an Entrepreneurship studies degree; she wants to share her experiences by applying them in the work that she will be doing.
Now, she takes with her a way of discipline in doing things, a “never give up” character and the bright side of things when she goes employment hunting.
Occasion: There’s never a need for one when it comes to music with the Atkinson and Gomes families. On this date, it was in celebration of dad’s & mum’s 60th Wedding Anniversary.
Music has always been in our home from way before I was born I guess. Dad still has his open reel tape recordings of all of us, even at our ages of 1 year +. Listening to it has a charm that has always bonded my siblings, my late sister, Jennifer; my late brother, Nigel, Terence, Malcolm and I together, with dad and mum.
Dad and mum formed a singing group in the 1960s, with the famous band, “The Yellow Jackets” from Klang. Practices were most times in our house in Section 12, Petaling Jaya. They were also in various choirs, including the one in church. Dad was choir master in the Church of the Assumption, Petaling Jaya. I remember watching dad (I was 6 or 7 years old at that time) painstakingly write music and stencils for scores of hymns. He handwrote possibly a hundred sets of hymns for each of the choir members in his choir. He had artistic (still does) skills in him that made his work looked liked they were photocopied (They didn’t use photocopiers at that time).
My siblings and I were blessed with music rich families and music rich homes. Admittedly, some of that music were not to the likings of us, youngsters (at that time). But then, most music is evergreen and we’ve grown to enjoy them.
A few days ago, I was going through the videos on my phone and stumbled on this recording of my kid brother, Malcolm, singing this beautiful piece. Needless to say, you can feel the love and warmth he exudes with his natural born talent. On this occasion on June 18th (16th being dad’s and mum’s actual wedding anniversary date), there were several performers.
In this video, we had our whole family, together with some of dad’s and mum’s siblings to share this beautiful occasion with dad and mum. I will introduce everyone in this video, moving anti-clockwise starting with Shirley.
Shirley is Nigel’s wife and the mother of Sarah. You can see her pop in the picture once in a while. The Kid among the siblings because he’s the youngest; Malcolm shines when he sings, as he does here. He’s the one with the guitar, singing; in the video.
My late brother, Nigel; is next. Nigel loved family gatherings, as we all do. He would be in the thick of things with old family stories and jokes. Next to him is Uma, Malcolm’s wife. She always cooks up a delicious and often spicy spread for us, whenever we go to their place.
Sitting on the top of the stairs before the first landing is Tim. Alana’s then boyfriend, now husband. Yes, you can tell he’s a lawyer. If you can’t, you will have to find out for yourself.😉 Alana, Terence’s and Mabel’s eldest daughter; sits next to him. She is also the oldest of the grandchildren generation of the Atkinson family. Next to her, (sort of hidden) is Sarah, who is now head chef in one of the foreign High Commissions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is popular with foreign dignitaries for the fantastic meals she serves up. Sarah is Nigel’s and Shirley’s daughter.
Sitting a couple of steps below them is Laura; our (Jeannie’s and my) daughter. A state swimmer representing Selangor, Malaysia; she has music in her veins, too. Now, in the U.S. for her tertiary studies majoring in Entrepreneurship; she represents her university in swimming, too. She had a very exciting weekend at the University of Chicago meet last weekend. (1) She is the youngest of the Atkinson grandchildren.
Standing by the passage way is Ashley, Terence’s and Mabel’s youngest daughter. She is an educator for young children and is gifted with many talents, among them… why yes, of course… singing. The guy standing next to her is a talented singer, musician and writes his own music. He is Jay. He was then Ashley’s boyfriend, now husband. He speaks fluent French, too. Just saying.
Sitting in front of him is Mabel, Terence’s wife and the mother of Alana and Ashley. She’s the systematic-er. Everything has to be organised and in its place. Nest to her is Aunty Maryjane; wife to Uncle Ronnie. One of our family’s greatest supporters in all we do.
On Aunty Maryjane’s right is Laura’s mother, Jeannie. Yes, she’s my wife as well. Almost forgot.🤣 Jeannie has always been the greatest supporter in all that Laura and I do. A great supporter in all our family gatherings, too.
Next… hang on, I have to watch the video again to see whose next.
Ah… yes, my late eldest only sister, Jennifer (known by many as “Jen”). Jennifer was the eldest of us 5 siblings. She had an incredible talent for art, painting, troll beads, etc. Recognised by many in the arts arena from around the world. One to always organise family meet ups and gallivanting. On her right, is the lady of the house…
Mum, more famously known as Mrs Atkinson for her special icing- butter cakes and suggee cakes and yes, she makes a saintly fruitcake (an exceptionally rare commodity these days). Mum has always been the “glue” that bonded the family together. Not too long ago, in her younger days, she used to sing descant in choirs. She is always praying for all of us, our extended families and for everyone who asks her to pray for them. Not to mention for those she believes need urgent prayers, too. The strength and calm she displayed when Jennifer passed and more recently Nigel, too; is simply amazing. She knows that they are in a better place now.
Mum continues to make her famous butter cakes. She does them so lovingly.
Watch more video now… The late Aunty Clara, mum’s youngest sister and youngest from a family of 17 siblings. It was so nice to have her with us on this occasion. She would always make it a point to be with all family gatherings whenever she could.
Sitting on the sofa next to Aunty Clara, is the family prankster, dad’s youngest sister, Aunty Val. She is always up to some trick or another. The livewire of the family, Aunty Val has made it a point to attend all family special celebrations whenever, she possibly can. Our cousins and us know Aunty Val as “Aunty Val”. There can only be one “Aunty Val”. Next to Aunty Val, is a friend of hers; who came on holiday with her from Perth, Australia.
Aunty Maureen, dad’s other sister; has always been the victim of Aunty Val’s pranks. This goes way back, when they were kids. A teacher by profession; Aunty Maureen is the calm of Aunty Val. She’s the head of our Harding cousins’ families. On the chair next to her, is Uncle Ronnie; dad’s, Aunty Maureen’s youngest brother and Aunty Val’s too; but elder than her.
When we were young-er, Uncle Ronnie was known for “Bee-bup the ruler, she’s my bay-bee”; a song dad recorded of him singing while playing his guitar. The familiar voice on radio, til today.
Dad’s next on the list. The head of the Atkinson clan, the military officer, the grandfather, the father, husband, brother, brother-in-law. He wears so many hats and has played so many roles. Still calls everyone up from around the world just to find out how they are doing. He’s a believer in buying food and groceries in large quantities. Mum and he will always call to find out how we all are doing, including Laura in the U.S.
Synonymous with Squash (or racquet-ball in the U.S.) is Ray. As a public figure, Raymond Arnold and his three children have played, are playing for Malaysia and coaching in Malaysia and Singapore in this game. Played and amongst the best in the world arena. If you hear someone laughing the loudest, that must be Ray. Always in for a good laugh and time.
Uncle Gerald, mum’s brother is the next one and the last in this video. A teacher by profession, a violinist and popular for his rendition of “Ave Maria”, he has always made it a point to attend family gatherings whenever possible. We are sure to get a phone call from him wishing us on our birthday or an anniversary. He finds it ticklish when people say, “We’ll catch up with you” – an oft misused phrase. He says they mean to say, “We’ll ketchup with you”.
There you have it – all of them in the video. I am not in the video – I was shooting it, the cinematographer / cameraman. Hope you enjoyed it. Terence was not in the video as I believe he was abroad at that time.
Speaking of anniversaries, some not so many years ago, this guy below on the left asked, “Would chu?”
She said, “Would chu what?” And I replied with my head flicking (headshake) on the right and flick raising my left eyebrow, “You know, the ring thing and stuff like that”.
“Oh, marry you. Let me think about it”, she said.
Then, it happened. On this day, 26 years ago. Many, many more great years ahead. 💖💕