It's all going swimmingly

NOT many of us can say with confidence that we were making and breaking records before the age of 21. Yet, that is what Welson Sim has been doing for most of his career as a national swimmer.

To date, the Kuching-born boy is the first Malaysian male swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, entering in two events at Rio 2016, the 200m and 400m freestyles.

He has also won various gold medals in international-standard competitions, and even beat Olympic champion Mark Horton in the 400m freestyle twice.

At last year’s SEA Games, Sim broke the 200m freestyle games' record by winning gold in 1:47.79, with the previous record being 1:48.96. And just two months before, he also broke the national 400m freestyle record at the Mare Nostrum Tour in Monte Carlo.

How old were you when you first started swimming?

I started learning how to swim at a swim club at the age of 10. I had asthma as a child, hence my mother was exploring different ways for me to ease the pain I had when breathing. A doctor recommended that I started swimming. After I got comfortable with it, I decided to pursue it as a competitive sport.

How did you feel when you won your first swim meet?

It felt great! I didn't expect it, so it was even more of a surprise for me. Before I won my first meet, I always had an interest in swimming – I constantly looked forward to my training sessions and had a lot of encouragement from my mother.

Why did you decide on becoming a professional athlete?

It was a personal interest at first. I liked and enjoyed swimming. As time passed, I realised that being a professional swimmer needed discipline and commitment, which I think is what all of us should have. I suppose I never imagined I would be a national athlete when I was younger –I just wanted to swim, without having any pressure.

Do you feel that being a national athlete is a huge responsibility?

Yes. The moment you put on the tiger stripe T-shirt, you're also putting on a responsibility to do your country proud. For me, it's about wanting to make Malaysia proud. I feel really good to be able to represent the country at an international level.

Is there any special training that you undergo to ensure optimum performance during competitions?

I do have special training sessions, which I do twice a week. It's just a little bit of extra effort that I put in to improve myself and my stamina.

Aside from the special training, what is your daily regular training like?

Our daily training routine is somewhat different from the others. I wake up at six in the morning to get to the pool by 6.30am. I'm out of the pool by 8.30am for morning sessions, and we usually rest until our afternoon sessions at 3.30pm. We train till 6pm, and the only free time we have is usually at night.

Do you adhere to any special dietary restrictions?

I don't really have any strict dietary restrictions, because the amount of calories I burn in a day is really incredible. It's actually recommended that I eat as much as I can, and focus on [consuming] more carbohydrates.

What advice do you have for those who aspire to be a national swimmer or athlete?

Never give up, because once you have a set goal, you must try your very best to achieve it. No matter how hard the road might be, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.

What do you do to let off steam in your free time?

I enjoy playing computer games. My go-to game is Dota, and I play a lot of it.