“To be Great, you've got to Dream Big. To Dream Big, you've got to make those sacrifices. Go Big or Go Home” - Gary Tan, Singapore National Swim Coach
Sacrifice is unpleasant and undesirable In our modern, self-indulgent culture. Many even go out of their way to avoid sacrifice or minimize it as much as possible.
Yet success in almost every aspect of our lives is dependent upon sacrifice – all the more so with world-class athletes.
In their world, it’s only through sacrifice that significant accomplishments have been achieved—be it those recorded in the history books or the many that go unnoticed every day. It’s the single most important ingredient found in the very best.
For swimmers, sacrifice is apparent in their daily regimen. They lie in bed recuperating when their friends enjoy a big night out. Before the sun rises, they are on the track or in the pool. When others have dinner, they are back in the pool.
Not convinced? Here’s a peek into their schedule –
0500 to 0510 - Wash up
0530 to 0730 - Training
0800 to 1400 - School
1530 to 2030 - Training
2030 onwards - Dinner, school work, recovery
And it’s rinse and repeat the next day. They sleep, train, travel and consume nourishment. Time isn’t really a luxury, which is unfortunate because we all know we cant ever get time back. Each moment slips away without us noticing. Maybe that’s why time is the biggest sacrifice – time with family, friends and even personal time are some things the best swimmers choose to forgo.
"There are sacrifices that you do have to make from time to time. For swimmers, we have to sacrifice a regular social life," says 2011 South East Asia Fastest Man, Russell Ong. "I think of the countless social events I have missed or nights out I have sidestepped, missing my good friend's wedding because of a competition. The list is endless. I do have one free day a week, where I can take my mind off swimming. It's difficult, but I'll rest once I've accomplished what I've set out to do."
Despite the nature of what they do, and how difficult it can be, there is always something driving them forward. "Though it's tough not being able to lead a completely normal life, I would not have preferred it any other way even if given the chance to," says Singapore Olympic Swimmer, Quah Ting Wen. "In my journey as an athlete, I've met people from all walks of life, friends who understand what I'm going through and are part of a similar journey. I feel the pride of being on the same team where I feel like I am really fighting for something bigger than myself."
You might think every top athlete is a little crazy, a little obsessive, maybe even a little selfish and certainly not quite the norm. But it’s precisely these choices that set them apart. They are willing to give that extra bit – the heavier stack of weights, the earlier night in or the extra lap – that might inch them closer to the top. And if your dream is to reach the podium, you better be obsessive about your sport. There’s no two ways about it.