June winner: Glen Lim

ST Star of the Month: Record-breaking teenage swimmer Glen Lim is willing to go the distance

Jennifer See (far left), general manager of F&N Foods, and ST sports editor Lee Yulin, presenting national swimmer Glen Lim with his trophy and hamper.
Jennifer See (far left), general manager of F&N Foods, and ST sports editor Lee Yulin, presenting national swimmer Glen Lim with his trophy and hamper.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Despite packed schedule, teen swimmer has big goals, wants to prove himself at Asiad

Singapore has always produced quality swimmers, but the majority of these human torpedoes specialise in sprints.

Glen Lim is a rarity. Still only 16, he had set a national record of 3min 54.12sec in the 400m freestyle on the last day of the Neo Garden 14th Singapore National Swimming Championships on June 23.

Three days earlier, he also lowered his 800m freestyle national record of 8:18.21 with an 8:15.08 effort. And he has a personal best of 15:46.84 for the gruelling 1,500m event.

His lung power, and brace of national marks, earned him The Straits Times Star of the Month award, backed by F&N's 100Plus, for June.

After he was presented with his award on Thursday afternoon at the Little House of Dreams bistro at Dempsey Road, the Raffles Institution student said: "This sounds ironic, but it's the pain that I enjoy.

"I like it when there's a tingling sensation in my tired body and when I train so much that I will be numb and can't move.

"It can be lonely when everyone is doing sprints and only a couple of us are doing distances.

NOTHING WILL STOP ME

It's the pain that I enjoy. I like the tingling sensation in my tired body, when I train so much that I will be numb and can't move... But I just focus on what I want, which is to go faster.

GLEN LIM , national swimmer who may be only 16 but is willing to push himself to achieve his long-term goals.

"But I just focus on what I want, which is to go faster."

ST's sports editor Lee Yulin said: "It isn't easy breaking one national record, let alone two, in a single meet. Glen's achievement certainly stands out, as does his courage and commitment in choosing to be different by specialising in long-distance swimming."

The Secondary 4 student certainly needs plenty of stamina to juggle studies and sport. Apart from preparing for the O level examinations at the end of this year, he trains nine times a week.

A typical day starts at 5am when he travels from his Boon Keng Road home to train at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub. After training, he makes his way to Raffles Institution at 7am for classes that will end at 3.30pm.

Then it is more training with the national swimmers before heading home at 7.30pm for dinner and homework before he hits the sack at 9.30pm.

It is this dedication to his craft that impresses Gary Tan, the head coach of the National Training Centre (NTC) squad.

He believes the teenager is a "really talented kid who hasn't reached his fullest potential yet", saying: "Glen is a very good racer who is very methodical in how he executes his races.

"One of the plans is to aim towards a sub-15min time (for the 1,500m, the current national record of 15:43.08 was set by Teo Zhen Ren in 2012). It's going to be a long process, but it helps that he has developed a very good relationship with (NTC assistant coach) Marcus Cheah. Both have done a fantastic job together so far."

One thing the NTC coaches are working on Glen is his mental strength.

The swimmer suffered jitters which manifested itself in a stomach ache as he finished seventh in the 400m individual medley final on his international debut at last year's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

Tan said: "He can get flustered before a race so we must strategise how we can build up his confidence.

"That means making him swim hard and fast even if he is at his most uncomfortable. We race him when he's in a fatigued state.

"Sometimes he worries overly and thinks too much, but we are helping him to manage the pressure and deal with it positively."

Glen will have the chance to show his composure next month at the Asian Games in Indonesia. He is hopeful that the tough training will help him make waves in the pool.

He said: "The training intensity can be very high, there will be lots of suffering and complaining. There will be times when I don't feel like training, but I will still train because it's for my own good.

"If I want to be up there with the best swimmers, I have to go through this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'He's willing to go the distance'. Print Edition | Subscribe