Thursday, 19 June 2014

My SUKMA Experience - by Ming

In SUKMA XVII, 2014 held in Perlis recently, Ong Ming Fen is the only female swimmer achieving the most medals. With 4 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze in her individual events, Ming Fen has stamped a mark of excellence in her return to swim SUKMA for the second time.

Read her story ....

I first joined IBSC back in the year 2000, when my sister, Ong Ming Xiu, joined. However I hadn’t swam anything in Malaysia until SUKMA 2012 in Pahang.

You can only imagine how nervous I was, not only because I was injured and wanted to swim well, but also because I was entering a country where people could speak multiple dialects, and I could only speak English. I remember the day before the bus left; I went to the pool to do a warm up and kept mostly to myself. I felt incredibly out of place and got out of there as fast as I could. As the week unfolded, I became more and more comfortable and opened up due to the kindness of the team. Those of you who have met me will know that I am a little quirky and inadvertently loud. I still remember on Day 3 of the meet the shock and amusement in everyone’s faces as they asked me “How come you weren’t this noisy on the first day?!”. I grew close to many swimmers and made many new friends.

Last SUKMA, I had trained hard and was well prepared. Unfortunately, two weeks before I departed Australia, I fell over running and dislocated my knee. I was devastated! Nevertheless, I came to Malaysia and raced as best I could, pushing through the pain. I ended up with 6 individual silver medals. Although I was proud to have medalled in every event I swam, I knew that if I didn’t have my knee injury I could have gotten a few gold medals and left disappointed and unsatisfied. It took me about 7 months to recover from my knee injury. In training, I was doing mostly pull and almost no dry land work. I was finally given the green light to get back into full training. One week later I was doing weights and I felt excruciating pain in my upper back between my shoulder blade and spine. This resulted in another 10 months out of full training and numerous physios could not pinpoint the actual problem. I could swim no more than 1km a session for about 7 months and again, almost no dry land exercise. FINALLY, in November my pain slowly vanished and joined back for full sessions. I knew I had little time left and that I would have to push hard to be prepared for Age Nationals and Commonwealth Games Trials in Australia. After falling sick and therefore swimming poorly in both meets, my teammates had 2 weeks off, but I only had 3 weeks until SUKMA. So I had 2 days off and started training by myself and with younger squads. Surprisingly, I was feeling quite good in the water and was posting good times in training, feeling confident I would swim close to my PBs. This year, I had less pressure but I was ready to prove myself as more than the “girl who could only get silver” as I was called by reporters.

Leading into this year’s SUKMA, I knew it was going to be close between me and some of my competitors. I had not swum a good meet for a few months, so I was unsure of where my times sat, but after disappointment two years ago, I was hungry for that gold medal. I was slightly more comfortable than the last time because I knew more people. In Australia we race indoors, so the humidity in Malaysia was another thing I had to adapt to. And not to mention, not knowing how my competitors’ races were had kept me on my toes as I didn’t know what to expect from them. I was extremely nervous on my first day, the 100m freestyle. I swam comfortably in the morning but I knew it was going to be a tough race. I went into the finals trying to keep calm but I was extremely excited, knowing that if I went under 59s I would have a good chance. When I touched the wall and looked at the board, I was so happy doing a 0.5s off my PB, achieving the first goal since SUKMA 2012. But I had to calm myself knowing that I had 400m IM shortly after. Concluding the day with three medals, I was very happy with how I had competed.

The next day, was the 200m free, the race I had been targeting. Again I was nervous, because last SUKMA I was narrowly defeated by Chris Tan. Again I had to clear my mind, and again I executed my race plan. However, I had not been expecting a 2s improvement. I was ecstatic!

In the 400m free event, I knew was going to be close between me and Angela Chieng. Her back end is amazing, so I knew I had to take it out hard and try and hold her off the last 50m. At the 300m turn I was hurting a lot and could see her close behind and in my head I didn’t think I could hold her off. After the last turn she had caught up half a body length so I thought I was done but I focused on my technique, limiting my breathing as much as I could and just managed to beat her. It was one of the more painful races.

The last day was 800m free and 50m free. I made a tactical decision to let up on the 800 and focus on the 50. After all, I had won 3 of 3 freestyle races, and considering my training for the past 8 months I knew my fitness would not be where I would like it to be for an 800m event. The 50m was the last event of the meet and it was one that some people didn't expect me to win but eventually I am proud at what I have accomplished when I touched first.

Although Australia is a lot more competitive, it is a good for me to experience racing that is different. Australia is also a lot stricter, so if you haven’t marshalled at least 2 full events before, you may be pulled out and the event amalgamated.  There isn't a cheer squad either. The only people you have cheering is fellow swim mates and parents in an indoor venue that is a lot bigger, so often some of the team spirit is lost at smaller meets.
The Wilayah cheering squad cheering for Wilayah swimmers
I have made some lifelong friends on this trip, not only those who swim in the National Team or for Wilayah, but also from other states. Staying as a team is very important to me as I feel that the support is greater and that the team grows closer.

Thank you to all of you who were present in Perlis; parents, coaches and most importantly my team mates. You made the trip very special!

SUKMA is always a great experience for me, both in and out of the pool and I look forward to SUKMA 2016 in Sarawak. Hopefully I see you all there!


My WILAYAH Team members

Feeling ecstatic with my relay partners, from left; Tan Rou Ying, Christina, myself and Mak Ai Sin

Also view SUKMA 2014 album at IBSC Gallery.

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