Some people like the glam that comes with being an elite athlete. I didn’t mind it, neither did I crave for it. To be honest with you, I hated doing interviews and photoshoots. I am extremely awkward at standing around taking photos because suddenly I don’t know how to stand, smile or what to do with my hands. Interviews can be tiring but I often tell myself that I am doing it for the sport. What better way to increase the awareness of the sport than to talk to people about it? The best part about these gigs is (shamelessly but truthfully) that I get free stuff out of it. Sometimes photoshoots pay you but not all, especially not when they tell you to “do it for the community as a way of giving back” and you cant argue with that, only to realise that these people have taken advantage of you.
But what I love best about being an elite athlete, that I am thankful for everyday since I “retired”, is the ability to know my body so well to the extent that I know how it will react to certain kinds of foods, or exercises. I know that if I lift, my muscle will go through an immediate process of hypertrophy and just like that, I gain mass. I know that I don’t need 8 hours of sleep because I tried sleeping for 8 hours on several nights but never once woke up feeling fresh. I haven’t found the optimal sleep time yet but I can do with 4hours of sleep. I know that 2 weeks before
my period, Ms PMS pays a visit and Ross will suffer. She will only go away at the first hint of my bleeding and Ross will be eternally grateful for that. HAHAHA OKAY (too much info).
The perks of being an athlete also mean that I get free access to a sports doctor, physio and massage and strength and conditioning coach and nutritional advice and psychology sessions. I have never taken these things for granted and I have been grateful to have been given the attention and care I needed by these professionals to make sure that I am always at my peak performance, BUT!
Here’s where it sucks.
I have been so pampered by my 13 years of being an “elite” athlete that now when I am injured, I don’t know what to do- whether to rest it off or to see a medical professional. I have to depend on Google and MayoClinic which are often very unreliable and like to make things worse than they really are. When I finally made up my mind to see a doctor for an injury that I know is pretty legit (pretty legit means that I have waited 3-4 weeks for it to “ease down” and if it still hurts or affects my training drastically), I cry when I see the bill. I know I have officially joined the “normal people” line when I had to make an appointment at the Skin Clinic and the next available date was in 6 months. I’m not saying an athlete is not normal. Sometimes, we are abnormal (come on, you have to agree on that- I mean, who puts their bodies under immense stress for almost every day of their lives for fun?).
And my body has been so well taken care of my favourite masseuses that now that I am in Boston and know that I really need a rub down because I can feel my legs screaming due to the lactic build up in every muscle fibre, I cringe at the $100 bill.
When I was training for the recent half marathon, I was running almost everyday- something my legs were not used to. In the last week of the training as I was tapering down (or something like that- I had no idea what I was doing, just following training programs like what I was designed to do), every run was a chore. My legs felt heavy, even when I woke up in the mornings, they don’t feel fresh. I felt as though I’ve been running all night (maybe in someone’s mind ;)). So I knew that if I want to run well, I had to get a rub down. (Ross said I should just “rest it off” but I’ve been resting it off for 8 days, but of course, his idea of “resting it off” means GET OFF THE LEGS and actually don’t run. My idea of “rest it off” is train but go at a lower intensity but complete the mileage. Ross wasn’t specific enough.)
This reminds me of the weeks nearing towards the Olympic Qs. I was feeling tired all the fkn time and I knew something was wrong with me. I went to take a blood test and they found out that my iron levels were low. On top of that, I had UTI. But my doctor advised me to just continue training, give it all you’ve got for the next few weeks, reminding me that it will be hard, I will be extremely tired but don’t discount on the training. I will reap the benefits later.
He was right because I def reaped my damn benefits when I qualified.
So, yes. I tried to apply what I’ve learnt as an athlete into my “normal life” routine. My legs were tired, they weren’t caused by UTI but just the lack of stretching and recovery, but I knew that training had to go on no matter how tired they were. The last minute massage (although very important to note that massage was at least 2 days before event) worked wonders. I was sore the day after the massage but on the day after, I felt like I had brand new legs and on race day, I was ready to go. It worked for me, but I’m not say its a one size fits all remedy for tired legs. It may not work for you, or it might. Most importantly, you need to know what works best for yourself.
My body has been so well-adapted to getting frequent massages as an athlete that rolling and stretching just don’t do justice to my stubborn knots anymore. Maybe I should encourage Ross to take up a sport massage course. #goodidea
I told myself that I needed small goals in life to feel like there is a purpose in living each day. So, I set myself a goal to beat my PB of 1:53hrs for a half marathon. 1:53hrs was set at the Standard Chartered in Singapore in 2014. I remembered how torturous the race was and the heat and going round and round in Sentosa and finishing with a medal I can’t even remember where I kept it but with a promise to myself that I will never do a half marathon ever again. I remembered carrying my phone on my right hand throughout the whole race not changing hands that at the end of the race, I couldn’t move my shoulder and later found out that I had developed tendonitis.
On March 10 2019, I found myself breaking that promise as I stood at the start line at the Malden Half in the freezing morning. The night before the race, I almost decided that I didn’t want to do it because I wasn’t ready. I have been following a half marathon programme that I found online but I was in Ottawa for the past few weeks that it had been too cold to be running outside. I experienced my first snow storm at one point and spent the entire 2 weeks on my own in the middle of nowhere with a dog and a cat as my loyal companions. Thankfully, there was a treadmill in the house. But somehow, the treadmill was in the bedroom and it was facing the bed. My back was towards the windows. And somehow, I managed to deal with that.
The longest run was probably 70mins on the treadmill maybe? There were a few 60mins days. They were incredibly hard. It is so painful to just stare at the bed for 60mins. I did my runs according to the programme that I found- there were some intervals, some “hill sprints” that I managed to simulate by increasing the incline of the threadmill and a few steady state long runs. I try to break down those long runs into pieces. Honestly, it was mundane but incredibly, somehow, I managed to push through all that to put in some decent mileage on that machine.
The longest run I did before the half was probably a 75mins run in Boston. I was far from being prepared for the half marathon. But Ross kept on saying that have the ability to push a pace and maintain. I don’t know where he gets this idea from that I may be good at long distance running but hey, you’ll never know if you don’t try.
So it was like 1 degrees that race morning. I tried doing some warm up runs but the roads were icy and slippy! There weren’t as many people as I thought there would be probably because of the weather and also there was some fkd up shit that happened with the race planning. So, the story is that the race was advertised as a scenic route along the Fells, which is apparently very pretty. But about 2 weeks from the race, the organisers said that they didn’t gain the permit to hold the race on the proposed course so it was changed to a loop around the city Malden, which isn’t a very exciting town, and half marathoners have to do the loop 5x. Runners were given a chance to race the 5mile instead and I was tempted to do the 5miles but 5miles is such a random distance, tbh. It isn’t like a 10km, you know?
So, yea, 5 rounds of 4km and a little bit more at the start and at the end. We also later found out that the racers who registered after the news that the race course has changed broke, had the fees cheaper than the early birds. I know, really dumb. Ross was really mad and tried to contact the organisers but instead of owning up to their mistake and handling the situation professionally, they were being very mean and sarcastic about it. And it bothers me that they are like this because the registration fee is $80, mind you. Never again from this organiser. This will be my first and last.
So, there I was at the start line, just hoping that I would be able to maintaining a pace below 5:00min/km. Ross told me to aim for a 1:40mins. That would give me a 4:44min/km pace. I felt okay in the first 3 laps. It helps to see Ross handing out water at one of the stations so it gave me some kind of motivation or something to look forward to on each lap. And then the 4th lap, I just kinda slowed down. It came suddenly, my legs felt heavy, I was so tired, it felt as though I was dragging my feet. I couldn’t even bring myself to smile when I passed Ross.
The last lap, I managed to pick up again. My feet were hurting, my hips were so sore and I know that my shoulders are already beyond fkd up. I picked up speed towards the finish line as though it would make any big difference to my life and for the next 15mins or so, I was just so out of it. I remember not being able to stand still, I wanted to lie down but my head hurts when I did, I tried to drink or they had bagels or donuts or something like that and I just couldn’t bring myself to eating or drinking anything. It wasn’t like a 2km erg test pain. It was a different kind of pain. Either way, both aren’t pleasurable.
1:37.9. That was the time I took to finish that bloody half marathon. I also got a huge blister on the sole of my foot which later Ross insisted that I poked it. I couldn’t walk normally for the next few days and my legs were sore for 2 weeks at least.
(Oh and of course, right after I crossed that finish line, it started to snow heavily!)
I guess I won’t be making anymore stupid promises to myself like not doing a half marathon ever again because I forsee myself doing several more before I die. I don’t particularly enjoy it but I guess if I want to do a half Ironman or an Ironman, I have to learn to start loving it.
I didn’t regret doing the half marathon because I did perform a PB and it feels good and kinds worth it but is it really? It’s amazing what I didn’t know I’m capable of sometimes and this curiosity is going to be my main source of motivation to set more smaller goals in life.
Next time, I’m definitely going in more prepared by actually doing more long runs. The blister on my foot may also be a sign that I need new running shoes, like a new type altogether, but I’ve been so loyal to the Kayanos it feels wrong to even think about trying on another pair of running shoes. And my shoulder- I definitely need to work on that running gait and not holding my shoulders up.
Now that this is done, what’s next for me to conquer?
The time for me to bid goodbye to my sponsors has come. I wasn’t looking forward to this but I know that one day it has to be done. Like how I can’t live as an athlete forever, I cannot be sponsored all my life.
I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of stories like these many times, on how people propose their ideas to companies and get turned down, rejected, dissed, and all the other hurtful things you can possibly think of but they go on to continue proposing their ideas to other companies anyway because they believed in themselves so much. That was pretty much my story when I went out to look for sponsors for the first time. Guys, you have absolutely no idea how much it hurts to get rejected, to get people telling you that you’re not good enough, or the worst excuses companies have given to me is: We don’t sponsor rowers, like being a rower is some kind of a race you don’t even want to have to ever deal with in your life. How is it that saying, “I won’t sponsor you cuz you’re Malay” is NOT okay but saying, “I won’t sponsor you because you’re a rower” is okay? HOW IS THAT EVEN..
okay. I’m cool. But yea, you get shit like this, and it’s a matter of how much you can take it and how far you’re willing to go.
Of course, it wasn’t a case of, oh I got rejected but I will stay strong because I know I’m awesome and I go on to find other sponsors. It was more like, reads email, cries to ex-bf like someone just died, hates life, hates company, hates rowing, moody for the next few days, reminds myself that IT IS OKAY IF THAT COMPANY DOESN’T SPONSOR ME BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT COMPANY ANY WAY IF THEY SAY THOSE THINGS TO ME and move on. I still have all the rejection letters I received. They are still as heartbreaking as when I read them for the first time.
And it was even harder then, when I was rowing, because I knew that I needed their help desperately. I used to run at least 10km everyday (yes, everyday) and I wore the same running shoe for two years or something like that because I couldn’t afford another pair, and I wanted the same brand and model because I tried other shoes and they were just not as comfortable. I know beggars can’t be choosers but when you need to run for an hour each day, you don’t want to run with a pain on the shin or the knee. I grew more muscles and couldn’t fit in my sports bras and I couldn’t afford new sports bras because in case some of you didn’t know, sports bras are ridiculously expensive for something with so little material.
I was desperate for help, to the extent that I went online and asked my friends if they can donate their used stuff like sports bras and shoes (which hasn’t reached the distance limit) and some cycling gear because the only one I owned then was passed down to me from Dinah Chan, a former national cyclist. It was so embarrassing to ask for help like that, but some things just need to be done. But I’m so grateful to have amazing friends/support. I guess sponsorship doesn’t have to come from companies or organisations that always want something in return for the stuff they give you. It can also be your friends who just want to see you succeed.
First it was letting go of Herbalife. Herbalife was the first company to provide me with monetary sponsorship to fund my training. On top of that, they provided me with the added nutrition I required when I was gaining muscles. I wasn’t really a fan of supplements but when I was training 2-3 times a day, sometimes my daily caloric intake and the amount of protein I have to consume from normal food isn’t enough to meet the recommended amount. I didn’t think I would ever live the day to say that but it’s true! Of course Herblaife 24 is WADA approved. One of the things I missed most about being Herbalife’s sponsored athlete is the amount of support I get from the members. They are legit crazy- in a good way. All in all, like how a gym is different from a fitness centre, going into a nutritional change is different from a diet. And the support you get from the people around you are so important and being part of the Herbalife family gave me that emotional support. So thank you, Herbalife.
Secondly, Under Armour. The story of UA is a tricky one. They first sponsored me in 2014 after my 2013 SEA Games Gold medal win and they stopped a year after. I was one of the first few athletes being sponsored by them when they opened their flagship store in Singapore. The other athletes were the Rugby Men’s team and MMA fighter Royston Wee. From what I know, UA was perceived (and still is) to be more male-centric (which is so not true because have you seen the ladies range? ????????????). But when it was first brought over to South-East Asia, the ladies range wasn’t as much probably because of the lack of demand amongst female customers. But I was constantly overseas training and I couldn’t participate in their events in Singapore, my only presence was on social media and also, I wasn’t performing. I came in last in the Asian Games and they didn’t really give me a concrete reason why they discontinued the sponsorship, but they did. Of course I was sad.
After the Rio Olympic Games, they sponsored me again, and being a more established company, more so than the it first started in Singapore, with more support staff, more experience in managing athletes, the collaboration between me and UA was much better. Despite the fact that I was being honest with them that I will not be competing this year but another Olympics is still my goal. Despite the fact that I was constantly overseas not to train but “finding myself” (I hate that term btw but that’s the easiest way to put the phase I want through). They supported me with all these cool gear, as a way of appreciating me for all that I’ve put in for the nation.
I like that idea of companies coming forward to extend their appreciation to fellow athletes and understand how much we have put in to our sport, and representing the country. I think as much as companies have the “higher power” of having the products and resources to give to the athletes, I don’t think its necessary to have this superior-inferior situation going on and worse, I don’t think it is right for a company to “use” the athlete. Of course it is of the company’s objective to leverage on the athlete’s circle of network to reach to a greater amount of audience but I think what is given to the athlete has to be a fair amount.
That is why, having a contract that both parties agree to is of utmost importance and to all athletes out there, READ THE CONTRACT THOROUGHLY BEFORE SIGNING. If there is something that you as an athlete is unhappy about, or uncomfortable about, if you think you have to do so much just to get like a week of free pass for a service which you feel isn’t fair, DISCUSS IT WITH THE COMPANY. Never ever just nod and agree to something you’re not comfortable with because THIS IS YOUR LIFE and you should 100% take ownership of how to run it.
Always reach out to a trusted friend who knows how to deal stuff like this (or reach out to me, if you need a second opinion on things). There are plenty of management companies out there but again, READ THEIR TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY. Not everyone in the world is nice and kind and as much as they want the best for you, they always want the best for themselves too.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust everyone. Wait, I am exactly saying that. DON’T EVER ALLOW ANYONE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU. (And taking advantage doesn’t have to be physically or sexually, if you know what I mean.) Know your own value and fight for yourself.
Wow, I feel like I can write a book on this.
I need to get back to my sponsorship stories.
Yes, UA. But of course, like any other good things, it has to come to an end. They didn’t renew my contract this year but we are still working together in better things to come, hopefully. I am slightly disappointed but knowing that they are still supporting me in one way or another is good enough for me right now, considering I am not competing at a level I used to anymore. Keeping the relationship with fellow sponsors is still important and I strongly believe in that, because you’ll never know when you might need them again.
4Fingers was one of the best yet rarest form of sponsorship I had. They sponsored me financially after I qualified for the Olympics and funded my journey towards the Games and even beyond that. They wanted nothing in return, they didn’t need me to put up any post on my social media, they just wanted to reward me for my efforts in being Singapore’s first Olympic rower and that is so rare, I was just really lucky.
In 2017, I was lucky to have ASICS as my apparel sponsor. This was a dream come true for me. I can have all the Kayanos in the world. There was a slight problem being sponsored by ASICS because I wasn’t a runner. I mean, I run alot but not at the level where legit runners run. So sometimes I do get their very light legit racing shoes, which I will never know when to wear because to me, #Kayanosare4lyfe. I trained and race in my Kayanos. But of course, for a real runner, that isn’t the case. Problematic or not, I was blessed. I enjoyed working with ASICS and was grateful to be part of their family.
There were other companies that came forward to support my journey- Specialized, Recovery Systems, TriEdge, Suunto, FitLine, Oakley, Olympus, Again Faster, G1RYA and Picasso. Whether it’s giving me free products or services, they all made a difference to my life and I am grateful to all of them. Although I am still considered “sponsored” by some of these companies, I can safely say that as of today, I am not bounded by any contracts, any rules, any terms and conditions, I am not part of the Sport SG athletes anymore, I am not required to do any more posts on my social media, and even if I do, it’s because I still believe in their products, which I am very certain that I will always do.
One of the reasons why I started the YouTube/Podcast channel: SportsGalaShow was because I wanted to share my stories on sponsorship and hear how other athletes get their gigs as well. I think there’s many ways how athletes can get the support they deserve and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for another athlete. But, to be honest, I got lazy with the shows. I still have lots of interviews I haven’t edited yet and I have said this a million times that I’ll get my ass on it but I haven’t had the motivation to do so and I don’t want to go back at it again half-heartedly. If I wanna do it, I should go all the way. So it will SportsGalaShow v2 will be DEFINITELY be re-launched but not anytime soon because I have learnt to prioritise (I think).
THIS IS SUCH A LONG POST. For those of you who made it this far, thank you. For all the support that I’ve ever received in my athletic journey, whether through sponsorship, crowdfunding or even just a message you sent me cheering me on, THANK YOU.
I’ve been back in Singapore for about 2 weeks now. I must say that the first week back was pretty rough. I was constantly tired, falling asleep at 7pm, often missing dinner because I was just way too tired to eat, tossing and turning in bed and waking up at almost every hour. I woke up at 3am about 3 or 4 nights and simply couldn’t go back to bed so I ended up just staying awake. Thus, the 7pm bedtime. It was awful. I know I usually get pretty terrible jet lags but it doesn’t ever get easier, does it?
On top of it all, I kinda feel like a teenage girl missing her long-term boyfriend. I often have to remind myself that I will be meeting him soon and that it will be okay but the days seem to creep by ever so slowly. I can safely say that long distance relationship, like jet lag, never gets easier with experience. You just gotta learn how to deal with it.
Although I was practically dragging my feet through the days, I told myself that I needed to get training done. I had a rowing race to prepare for and I had a week to do it. Easter Rowing Club organised a 3-way regatta together with Shanghai Rowing Club and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club last weekend and I offered to volunteer but the club president said, you’re rowing. The last time I raced in a single scull was September 2016. I told him to pray for some miracle to happen in a week.
Being awake at odd hours in the mornings meant that I had no problem getting out of bed for early morning rows. It’s just that in Boston, I’ve been so pampered with the luxury of having Ross’ car to drive around that commuting in Singapore seemed like a chore. I sucked it up and spent an hour and a half to commute to the rowing centre each morning. I managed to squeeze in 4 rows in the week. Considering that I hardly have any new blisters on my hands, I am pretty impressed with myself.
The winds that regatta weekend wasn’t forgiving at all. To be honest, I have a feeling that it is a Pandan curse. Each time a regatta is held on that reservoir, the weather is always bad or water conditions not optimal. Interesting.
I was put in a scratch crew quad with 3 other rowers I’ve not met before. 2 were juniors and one, a day from Kuala Lumpur Rowing Club. I decided to sit on bow because I assumed none of them knew Pandan water better than I do. It was a good call. We were up against boats that have actually been training together. It caught me by surprise that we won. It kinda felt pretty good.
One of the most experienced rowers capsized twice and when it came to my turn to race, I was actually terrified. But I told myself that I have nothing to lose and that there’s absolutely no expectations because I just got back on the boat last week. My opponent was a 2017 Masters World Champ who is currently training for this year’s masters regatta. No pressure.
I haven’t done a start for a very long time, I didn’t do any starts for warm up too because it was just way too choppy. I kinda just went off when Raihan (the official for the day) said go. I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t as bad as Rio and if anything happens, falling in isn’t really the worst thing that can happen. Next thing I knew, I was taking the lead and all I had to do was to stay there.
It was just a fun race, to be honest, but when I crossed that finish line, with my arms sore (instead of my legs because I was holding on the the handles for dear life), I thought, I FKN MISS THIS. Not the fact that my arms were sore but just the feeling of racing. The winning part is always a bonus but I MISS RACING.
Am I going to make a comeback? Probably not. I have other priorities in my life right now. I have my masters hopefully coming up this year, I’m working on a PT cert, becoming a better rowing coach, I have the visa to sort out, setting up some athlete support groups which I’ve been procrastinating for months and relaunching my podcast. There’s already plenty on my plate. I don’t envy the rowers training their asses off on a daily basis, I don’t miss them having to leave behind their lives for training camps. I’m grateful that I am still training at my own pace, trying to find a sport that I can be good at, maybe do a race or two this year. Win some more medals, surprise myself a little. But otherwise, I’ve learnt to say no to some things and as hard as it is, sometimes, it feels good. It feels good to know that I have said no and that its okay. And life still goes on and that at the end of the day, even if I don’t see it now, I’m going to be awesome, like I’m meant to be.
So no. I don’t need rowing to be awesome. I think it’s time I be awesome in other areas in life. Like being an awesome fiancee.
I know. I cringe at the way I am head over heels over this guy sometimes but then again, this is exactly how he makes me feel. xx
I mean, I’m done with rowing (for now), although it is still very hard for me to publicly say that I have retired because I don’t think I have been able to and still cant come to terms with that. I just don’t like the word “retirement” because it makes me sound old and saggy. Let’s just say, I’ve decided to extend my break from rowing for an indefinite period. I can be strong and independent like that but when it comes to rowing, I don’t know. My heart just tears into a million tiny pieces in a heartbeat when I think about it. Parting ways with rowing is like separating from a long-term boyfriend whom I was madly in love with, given up my life for but had to let go because, because we both simply grew out of love. It reached that stage when there is just emptiness between us. Nothing more than just an empty space that needed to be replaced by something else, someone else. Whatever else but rowing.
So here I am, done with my GRE, but still squeezing the crap out of my brain juices having to craft up these personal statements, selling my life away to these schools which are going to suck in all the money that I have saved up for my “future”. I can’t wait to take up my Masters but there is this period between now and till school starts, there is so many unknowns that there is just no more capacity for the “worry” room in my head to worry about them!
Ross always reminds me not to live life with fear. No “what if”s. Sometimes you just have to let go and trust the process. (All these “living life” and “letting go” and “trusting the process” make training for the Olympics seem like a piece of cake.)
Each day when I wake up without having to rush to work, no deadlines to meet, no training to attend, these days when I wake up having to answer to absolutely no-one, having the ridiculous luxury to plan my own day, these are the days that I will need to treasure, hold so close, remember every moment when I sit on the sofa at home in the middle of the day with the Playstation controller in my hand, these are the days that will be gone soon. So I’m taking one day at a time, taking all the time I need to smell the roses, read every book I can possibly get my hands on, do all the shit I will never get to do once school starts, or work starts, whenever real life starts (whatever “real life” means).
I have it all planned out in my head at the start of the year. Who I’ll be with, where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing. But where I am now has made me realise that we can plan all we want but when things happen, sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I never thought I’d be in the US in the middle of winter, I’d never imagined myself to be engaged in 2018, I can count the number of times I’ve sat on a boat for this year, there’s just so many crazy things I never thought would happen, happened!
I just thought I’m going to put it out that that my life is about to go through a fresh start. Here’s me officially turning the pages in my book and writing a new chapter. I’m excited (I’m always excited) for what is to come. I can’t wait to see what life has to offer. I’m going to blog more about life beyond sports. I’ll still probably going to talk about rowing every now and then because there are just some things in life that sticks with you wherever you go. I also have dreams to make rowing a legit sport in Singapore one day, you wait. I’m still definitely an athlete at heart. I still train like a dog, I still love the idea of keeping fit, being strong, I’d wanna crush some dreams one day when I compete again, I crave to win medals again, stand on the podium knowing that I deserve to be there. Sports will still live in me but there’s also a part of my life that I want to share with you guys that doesn’t involve sweating or having to be in your workout gear. This is the part of life that is as important as sports. This is the part of life I have neglected for the past 13 years I was rowing. I knew rowing wasn’t going to let forever but I was so obsessed with rowing that life outside of rowing didn’t matter.
So here’s to me reinventing myself to become so much more awesome that what I already am.
I don’t often talk about relationships or my personal love life but I think it is time for me to open up.
News is that I just got engaged recently. A month ago to be exact. It is extremely exciting because it is a path that I’ve never taken before in my life. Having someone go down on one knee for me, having to stare down at my hands to see a beautiful diamond ring staring back at me. Just like how the Olympic necklace that I wore everyday reminded me of how much I wanted to be an Olympian, the ring doesn’t remind me of how much I wanted to get married (in fact, I never imagined myself to get married other than to my boat), but it reminds me of how much I am ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.
As you all would have already know, training for the Olympics took up so much of my time that even when I had a boyfriend then, I was more committed to my training than him. Of course I say this with utter regret because those guys I was with were really good people and I would say that I met them at the wrong time. But is there really such a thing as the wrong time? If you met your soulmate at the wrong time, is he even your soulmate to begin with? I’ve been reading articles on this idea about each and every one of us having more than one soulmate in our lives. As much as I don’t like the idea of it, we all know that it could possibly be true. But thing is that when I was training intensively, I was a different person. I think you have to be. There is only one focus in your life and that is your goal and nothing else. Even though I know that there are a few selected individuals out there who are able to balance both being fkg amazing in what they do and on top of them is a great partner or parent, I was definitely not one of them. I dated a few guys, broke hearts of some, often giving my training as a reason why there were failed relationships.
I met Rob before I became an Olympian, in fact when I was at the peak of my training and a few months away from the qualification. At that point, of course I was not ready for any relationship. But having been through a huge struggle in his life, I must say he helped me achieve that Olympic goal, even if we’ve only known each other for 2 months or so. I always feel that that’s the beauty about meeting new people- you never know what they might teach you or what impact will they make in your life.
The reason I mention Rob is because we went through alot together and I know alot of people are wondering what happened to him. Because next thing you know, Ross appeared in my life and now I’m engaged with Ross.
I know I can leave the issue with a “mind your own business” but I feel that telling my story will not only help me move on but who knows that it might possibly help one of you. Who knows.
Rob saw the Aisyah when I was intensively training, he was there at the peak of my rowing career when I qualified and he went through the period when I was struggling with transitioning. Thinking about it now- he has seen me at my best and my worst. He has seen all of it but still wanted to be with me. He was always the nice guy between the two of us. He never picked a fight with me, he often gives in, I just can’t find one thing that he has a flaw in. But when we were talking about taking a step forward with our relationship, I started to ask myself, “is he the one for me?”
I’ve never seen myself as the “marriage” kind of person- if there’s even such a thing. I never daydream about wedding dresses or how my ideal wedding should be. I never envisioned myself sitting on a dais looking back at all these faces staring right at me and my partner, feeling like the exhibition for the day. I never thought I would ever get married and when the topic comes into our conversations, I got excited at first but slowly it started to eat me up because I was consumed by the idea that I need to find the perfect one if he’s going to be the one I’m spending the rest of my life with. Fear and doubt started to creep in my head insidiously. I’ve started asking questions I’ve never asked before. This was the beginning of the end.
It was not the case that I didn’t love him because I knew I did. But I have sown and planted this idea of finding “the one” in my head that I started to nit-pick Rob’s behaviour and attitude. Things I used to be able to deal with suddenly made me angry. We got into fights all the time because I was finding faults in every single little thing I can possibly find. I was an awful, awful partner so much so that my mum told me to be nicer to him. I was mean, but I thought I had to be because I’m on a mission to find “the one”. I need to know that he’s willing to accept me in whatever shape and form I’m in. I cant settle for second best. But the thing is, he was willing to stand by me- whether I was evil or nice. He would never let me walk away. But I still had this question in my head I cannot answer and it annoys the shit out of me. “Is he the one?” I asked everyone around me how do I find out if he’s the one for me. Friends who are single, has a partner, married, just married, married for years, people expecting children, those with children, grandchildren, people with long distance relationships, I asked ALOT of people and of course as expected there was a variety of answers but mostly, the answer was, “you just know.”
But that is the rot of the problem. I don’t know. One friend even pointed out bluntly to me that when I have that question in my head, it already means that he’s not the one.
But is there even such a thing as “the one”?
We had so many plans for the future, we have invested so much on our plans. But because this thought and idea of having “the one” consumed me so much, I bid goodbye to the person who could possibly, according to the articles I read, be my soulmate. I left him because I was obsessed over the trivial idea of “the one”. It must have been really, really hard on him because I dropped the bomb on him all of a sudden. It sounds like it was an easy decision for me to make to walk away but only I will know how hard it was.
But if I didn’t leave Rob, I would never have found Ross. We knew we were going to get married on the second week we were dating. There were a hundred and one odds against us but here we are, engaged, and loving each other as though it’s day one. It feels odd for me to put both names in the same sentence but I told Ross the story with Rob. He knows everything. He may not be able to fathom the depth of what me and Rob really went through but knowing that I broke a guy’s heart because I was so confused (and cruel, I feel) and that he is still willing to propose to me and put a ring on my finger tells me that I don’t have to worry on whether he’s the one or not.
I guess why I’m telling you guys this story is because;
I’m in love with Ross and I cannot believe I have a friggin ring on my finger.
I don’t regret leaving Rob because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have found Ross but that doesn’t mean I didn’t loved Rob when I was with him. Letting go can be the hardest thing you will possibly do in your life but sometimes, letting go will lead you to the answer you’ve been looking for all these while.
I will always wish the best the world can give for Rob. May he find his “one” who will treat him better, who will bring out the best in him and who will love me more than I did. (He probably hates the shit out of me right now, spreading nasty stories about how I’m evil and cruel and I left him for another guy, cutting all my photos into tiny pieces and lighting them up in a fire, but I don’t deny that I was mean. I just had to do what’s best for me. I might have started to overthink too much but I guess my gut feeling was right all along.)
About a few months ago, I was gonna do my handstand when I felt a sharp pain on my right wrist. It has happened before and with some shaking and twisting my wrist in different directions, the pain will subside and usually I can get on with my handstands but that day was different. The pain didn’t go away so I thought I would give my wrist a rest. I took about a week off from doing any handstands. Even things like doing push up or pushing myself off the chair or the bed hurts.
I wanted to see a doctor in Boston but considering how much it will cost, I decided to wait till I am back in Singapore.
Went to see my usual sports doctor in Singapore and he did an ultrasound on my wrist. There’s an inflammation on the joints which is causing it to hurt and he was suggesting the different ways to treat it and then he asked, “how important is doing handstands to you?”
Thinking that I won’t be competing anytime soon and it is not preventing me from doing my daily activities, I told him, “no, it is not important.” And I left the clinic with a heavy heart because I chose to do nothing about it and that means I can’t do handstands anymore.
When I used to train full-time, every time I have an injury, it will and must be fixed without haste because I need my body to be functioning at its best every single day. It just hit me a little hard that day when I realised that I’m not a full-time athlete anymore. Yes, I’m done moping over it but things like these catch me off guard sometimes, making me miss those times when everything was so much easier. That is what I realised about being a full-time athlete- life was simpler. All I had to do was to make sure I turn up for training and perform to the best of my ability. When it is time to rest, I rest. I know what I was going to eat for the day, I know what was going to happen in the day, I know when I have to be in bed. When I was injured, I knew I had to see a doctor who will refer me to a physio to get the injury treated. And then I would religiously go for rehab every single day, even if I had to drive 2 hours each way for it. I know my life, my body and myself to the tiniest detail.
Walking out of the clinic made me wonder if doing handstands were really important to me. I mean, I have been working on it since January and when I finally manage to hold a handstand, it was one of the greatest achievements of my life because it was something I never thought I would be able to do and I was finally able to do it like 7 months later. It definitely made me happy. But, is my happiness not important enough to fix my wrist? Do I have to be competing for it to be considered important? Is this the dilemma people usually go through when it comes to facing injuries as a non-athlete? As long as it doesn’t affect their daily life, they can live with it.
I don’t know if I’m able to live with the fact that I am not doing anything about my wrist when there are choices out there to fix it. Yes, it will incur some costs. Yes, there might be side effects. And yes, even by injecting some steroids in it, it might still hurt but I don’t think I’m one to just let something go that easily. I just can’t bear the thought of doing nothing about it, even if I am not going to compete as a gymnast in the near future.
But one thing I realised is that I am fully able to take out a boat at anytime and row again. I can sit on the erg and row. No injury is stopping me from rowing again. I used to wish that I had to leave my sport because of an injury but now knowing that I get to choose to leave the sport makes me feel much better about the choices that I have made. As Scott Tinley puts it, “if you get to pick, chances are better you’ll be satisfied.” Life definitely has a cruel, malicious way to make you be grateful.
And that book I’m reading, Racing the Sunset by Scott Tinley, oh how it hits home hard. How I had to dog ear every page because I feel everything he says- from the feeling of emptiness when he left the sport, to losing his identity and trying to find himself. Maybe this is normal. Maybe every athlete who has dedicated their life to their sport goes through this. At least I know I’m almost coming out of the other end of the tunnel. Not quite there yet, but I have definitely found the light.
It’s fall in Boston and while its getting colder, the foliage here is just gorgeous. Everywhere I go, I remind myself of how lucky I am to be able to witness this beauty. It has been a hard past few months, maybe year or two, although I know my social media posts haven’t been reflecting what I really feel but no-one likes sad, gloomy posts. Everyone wants a positive, uplifting message. So I give them what they want. I have posted some posts in my IG where I tell the truth about my struggle but some people were not happy, thinking that I am only seeking for pity. Sponsors were left uncertain because they cannot have a confused athlete who isn’t competing or being a positive influence to the community as their ambassador. I was sitting on the fence with rowing. I can’t make up my mind on what I was going to do and where I was going. I was so lost and confused. I was scared. So scared I ran away from all my feelings. I went to Sweden to farm, I went to UK to spend time with my ex, I went to Canada to ski because I told myself I wanna see snow before I turn 30, I went to US to coach, I came back to Singapore feeling empty. I lost my boyfriend, I left a life I have planned for which I have spent so much for, I had no job, I had no boat to row on, I almost had nothing left. I went on this journey to find myself again but I came back not only without answers but with more questions I cannot answer. I was lucky to be able to afford all these travels. I am grateful that when I was rowing, after qualifying, I was being paid to row and I saved up alot. But since I left my sport and my job, it is hard to wake up everyday being 30 and not having money coming in. I’ve spent quite a bit travelling in and out of the US but I know that this is going to end soon. I’ll have to make a decision. More decisions. More changes. Sometimes, all I want is certainty, assurance that everything is going to be okay even when it doesn’t feel like it. So, I’m done with sitting on the fence:
I’m done with rowing for now, but not done with competing because I still want to compete for Singapore. I know I’m not done yet. There are many reasons why I don’t want to row anymore but I must say that most of the reasons are way beyond my control so not wanting to commit myself to daily training is not one of the reasons. To be honest, I would love to commit my life to training everyday. The easiest part of training for the Olympics, is training. The thing that I don’t want to deal with (and probably tired of) starts from the letter p. (People, yes. I cant deal with people, and politics. ooh, I said it. Touchy.)
I’m done with not knowing where I’ll be. I’m going to be in the US for a while, for lame reasons like I don’t want to do long distance relationship. I don’t want to risk this one anymore. I don’t think I have enough years in my (child-bearing) years to tell myself that “long-distance is hard but we’re gonna make it work” because truth is, it is hard work and it works but I’m just not risking this because you can put in the hard word and unfortunately with relationships, you need two to tango. So to minus this factor of risking a relationship just because two of you need to be on the same ground on how much effort each person puts in and then you go through a phase where one person will think the other is putting in more effort, I decided not to do long-distance anymore. (More on this boy-girl stuff in the next few posts, I promise, this is going to be juicy.)
I am going to study because I’ve been wanting to do that since I graduated in 2010 so here’s my chance to become who I’m meant to be (other than being a rower/Olympian).
It is down to my last few days in the USA and I’ve been in NYC for almost two weeks now.
I think I prefer NYC when I’m visiting as compared to living here. Maybe it’s a good thing the gig at Row New York didn’t work out. I don’t think I would enjoy living in NYC. I find NYC too overwhelming. It is absolutely crowded everywhere and places where it is not crowded, you don’t want to be in.
I haven’t rowed since Boston and honestly, I can’t wait to get my hands on those oars again. But I’ve been running and cycling alot and I really hope I find my path to becoming a competitive athlete again one day. It has been way too long since I haven’t felt the adrenaline in my body and the nerves of being at the start line of a race. I have come to learnt that I am born to race.
Actually, no. I have done a race recently. I raced in the 4th of July Firecracker Race on Grosvenor’s Island, NYC. It was a muggy day, not as hot as how Singapore would be but the humidity was pretty mad. I think I started off too fast, my first 1km was 3:58mins/km (lol). But later tried my best to keep it in the 4:30s. I finished with a time of 44:25mins which is 14s off my PB but I did that PB in Sydney on a cool morning and I was probably 10kg lighter 4 years ago. So considering that I haven’t been running THAT much, and that I was tired by the end of the race but not dying, I am pretty impressed. I came in 8th in the Female category and 4th in my age group (damn for turning 30 because endurance races favour the old somehow).
Anyway, I’ve been looking at Sport Psychology PhD programmes and I realised that it has been a long time since I studied, done any research or wrote an academic essay. It sounds like it is going to be a big challenge if I choose to take this path but you know what? Bring it on.