Injured Zachary raring to return at national c'ships

Zachary Ian Tan is itching to race again while he endures a long recovery period after a fracture of the tailbone. Disappointed at being unable to participate in the recent SNAG meet, he had to watch his peers compete instead.
Zachary Ian Tan is itching to race again while he endures a long recovery period after a fracture of the tailbone. Disappointed at being unable to participate in the recent SNAG meet, he had to watch his peers compete instead.

A year ago, swimmer Zachary Ian Tan spent most of his time on the starting blocks and podium at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. This year, he was on Instagram instead, nowhere near the action in the pool.

Zachary was the breakout star of last year's Singapore National Age Group (SNAG) Swimming Championships junior edition, setting meet records in all his 12 events.

But his much-awaited senior debut this year never took place.

On March 11, just days before the championships, Zachary, 12, slipped down a staircase in school. After a routine visit to a doctor, he continued training while using painkillers.

When the pain persisted after three training sessions, his parents took him to hospital and were told he had fractured his tailbone.

While he had hoped to recover in time for the SNAG, he had to confront his first serious injury - and a recovery time of at least two to three months. "I was extremely disappointed because I was really looking forward to racing at the SNAG," Zachary said.

"It was really strange to just sit at home and (follow the action at the championships) on my Instagram account - seeing all the action I missed out on.

"I had wanted to see how fast I could swim with a full taper. This was actually my first full taper since I joined the National Training Centre in September."

The severity of the injury and the enforced absence from the pool were not lost on his mother, Jillian Wee. "We (she and her husband Noel) were hoping that it was minor and would heal in time for him to compete," she said.

"We were quite shocked. Having followed his training, preparation and excitement for the SNAG meet, we felt very disappointed for him.

"It was quite painful for him to watch his friends race and get caught up in their excitement - he felt quite left behind. We just encouraged him and said he would have many other chances to race.

"As parents, we don't want to set any standards or expectations that he doesn't want to set for himself. We really leave it to him."

With the estimate of a long recovery time, Zachary is hoping to compete at the 12th Singapore National Swimming Championships in June.

"I don't really know how long it'll take to get back to full form. But, I'm still very young and I will work hard to get back on my feet with the help of my coaches," he said.

"They have been really encouraging and supportive."

As peers Glen Lim and Jonathan Tan set records at the SNAG, which concluded last Sunday, Zachary said he felt very proud of them and was extremely optimistic about the future of Singapore swimming.

"They're my very good friends," said the Swimfast Aquatic Club swimmer, who received many "get well" wishes from both Glen and Jonathan. He values their friendship, but acknowledges that their skill also inspires him as well.

"It helps to train with peers who are disciplined and have the right attitude. We're still young, we have a long way to go compared to the senior swimmers but I'm glad that we're setting high standards for ourselves."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Injured Zachary raring to return at national c'ships'. Print Edition | Subscribe