Our student from the Diploma in Aviation Management & Services (AMS), Lee Mei Shuang, earned 2 Gold & 1 Silver medals in Synchronised Swimming at the SEA Games (Singapore) held in June 2015, making her a celebrity figure in her course at TP. But behind all that glitz, glory and glamour, were the unseen sacrifices and sweat. She shares her experience…
I first took up Aquatics Sync Swimming in the middle of 2007 when I was studying in the Singapore Sports School (SSS). I was intrigued by it and also because it is a combination of swimming and dance, both of which were my CCAs in primary school, so I felt that it was quite cool to be able to do both at the same time!
It was one morning in SSS when I saw this notice which said trials would be conducted for the national Sync Swimming team, so I thought, why not have a go? That day was to change the course of my life henceforth.
I went along with a few of my friends to sign up for the trials as I had always wanted to represent the country. And guess what? I was selected to be accepted into the national team! I was really excited and nervous at the same time as I knew that I would have to balance my commitment between my studies and sports. Still, I did OK for my ‘O’ levels, and managed to get a place in the Diploma in Aviation Management & Services (AMS) at Temasek Polytechnic (TP).
In 2015, it was Singapore’s turn to host the South East Asian (SEA) Games! I had the chance to represent Singapore on home ground (or should I say, in home water!) Preparation for the SEA Games was 8 times a week, about 6 hours on weekdays and 7 hours on weekends! In the two months or so leading up to the Games, training went up to about 7 hours everyday, and we had training camps too.
I think one of the toughest parts was having really long hours of training with no break in between. Once, we had training from 7am to 1pm. We tended to get tired and hungry halfway through trainings. But as we were not allowed a break, we had to endure our hunger and fatigue till the end of training. What’s worse than the hunger and fatigue would be training in the hot blazing sun! (The water doesn’t protect you from the scorching sun!) I felt really miserable and helpless at times. However, what kept me going was the team spirit! Everyone was going through the same as me and we would motivate and help one another to get through tough times.
Another tough part of Sync Swimming is that we have to be good in so many aspects. As Sync Swimming is a combination of swimming, dance and acrobatics, we are required to swim fast, be flexible and at the same time, be able to express ourselves. As such, other than doing our standard routines, we still have to speed swim and even go for acrobatics and expression classes. As compared to being in the water, acrobatics on a hard floor was a little too physically demanding and I injured my back as a result of it. You can imagine the pain – I had to train through the pain barrier. Thankfully I had my coaches and team members to guide me along during my toughest period of time, and the injury did get better after going through physiology and rehabilitation.
During the actual SEA Games, I participated in the Team Technical and Team Free events. These events require up to 8 swimmers. Although 4 swimmers is the minimum, marks would be deducted for each missing swimmer. The Technical routine is a routine whereby predetermined elements must be performed in a specific order. The Free routine, on the other hand, is slightly longer in terms of timing and has no requirements, which allows for creativity and innovation in the movements and choreography. I also participated in the Free Combination, which is a team event where up to 10 swimmers perform in a continuous routine. During the routine, and there would be segments where different swimmers perform each time.
I would say the hardest dance routine in Sync Swimming would be the lifts (also known as highlights), during which we lift one member up and out of the water in an explosive fashion. It is not exactly difficult to carry out but it takes a required amount of effort and cooperation among the team members. When we execute the lifts, everyone has to be on the right count, angle and position for it to succeed. A failed lift is very obvious and can lead to quite severe deduction of marks.
A vital aspect of Sync Swimming is that it’s a team sport, and so all members must learn to cooperate, compromise and think about others. We had to make sacrifices for one another too. When executing a formation, for instance, we had to reach our assigned positions at a specific count, so in order to be in sync, every member has to swim the same distance, even if it means making a detour and coming back to where you are! It’s really maximum team work in action!
I think being in a sport CCA, we should never give up even when the going gets tough. No matter what comes your way, and no matter how many times you fall down, literally, just get back up and finish the race. At the end of the day, it will all be worth it. Definitely, taking part in the Games had entailed a lot of sacrifice. But when I stood on the rostrum and heard the “Majulah Singapura” being played during the medal presentation ceremony, I could not help but feel that all the hard work and sweat had been worth it.
As the saying goes, you reap what you sow. There is no reward without any hard work. This is something that applies not just to sports, but also to one’s studies. It requires one’s whole-hearted dedication to pursue excellence. So in a way, it was quite a struggle coping with both Sync Swimming and my studies. For example, when I was training for the SEA Games, it was actually quite tiring as I had to dash off for training right after school. And there were uncompleted homework, tutorial exercises and school assignments to be done. But my AMS lecturers and my classmates were really supportive and they helped me in whatever ways they could. My friends would share their notes with me and tutors would provide me with one-to-one consultation after classes to answer my questions.
Some people have asked me, would I consider going full time into Sync Swimming, in the same way that some local athletes have gone into full time training? Well, for me, I did think about this. However, at the end of the day, I feel that in Singapore, having a diploma is quite essential. That is why I am pursuing my diploma at TP whole-heartedly.
Furthermore, my diploma course (AMS) actually allows me to fulfil another passion of mine, which is aviation. Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated by Changi Airport and I used to wonder what makes an airport tick like clockwork? There are just so many flights coming in and going out, thousands of passengers and even more luggage to be handled, and yet everything seems to fall nicely into place smoothly. Of course there are the occasional hiccups, such as some flight delays and once in a while, a lost piece of luggage. But considering the immense volume of passengers and even larger number of shoppers thronging the airport each day, I think airports are a true wonder.
Now that I am in AMS course, many of my questions have been answered! I feel really fortunate that in my AMS course, we have lecturers who are experienced in what they are teaching. Many of them previously worked in the aviation industry, in various jobs such as airport managers, air traffic controllers, or even flight attendants. They provide us with rich first hand knowledge related to their subject and it is good to learn from the experts, as they say. They were able to give me a clearer picture of the various aviation topics by sharing their industry experience.
With my AMS classmates in TP
Studies and sports both have something in common – they require consistency, hard work, and a personal passion for what you are doing. For me, I shall continue to pursue my passion – aviation and sync swimming – and I hope achieve success for myself and my country.