Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman (Outram Secondary, swimming)

Never-say-die Ardi aims high

Outram Secondary School swimmer Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman overcame sudden illness to win the B boys' 1,500m freestyle at the Schools National Swimming Championships last month. He also won the 200m individual medley gold.
Outram Secondary School swimmer Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman overcame sudden illness to win the B boys' 1,500m freestyle at the Schools National Swimming Championships last month. He also won the 200m individual medley gold.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Always eager to improve himself, he wants to make his mark at Asean School Games

In his free time, Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman watches videos of swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Joseph Schooling. After meets, he watches videos of himself to reflect on what he did well and what he can improve on.

"Watching world-class swimmers inspires me because I want to improve myself and be like them," the Outram Secondary School student told The Straits Times.

"The way Michael Phelps swims motivates me - he never gives up. Even when ahead, he wants to be farther in front of his competitors, so I try to channel him in the pool."

The Olympic great's never-say-die spirit certainly helped Ardi at the Schools National Swimming Championships last month, when he suddenly felt ill and vomited at the 800m mark in the B Division boys' 1,500m freestyle final.

But the 16-year-old remained calm, persevered and eventually won the gold in 16min 41.05sec.

Ardi recalled: "I didn't want to let that affect my race plan, so I stuck to it and just focused on maintaining my timing every 50m.

"I also saw my nearest competitor trying to catch up and I decided to endure it; I didn't want to give up and live my life with regrets."

He also won the 200m individual medley three days later as he improved his personal best by about two seconds to 2:10.65.

For overcoming the setback, Ardi has been named The Straits Times' Young Star of the Month, an award backed by 100Plus and given to school athletes who have shone during the Schools National this year.

Said ST sports editor Lee Yulin: "Ardi's courage in persevering despite being unwell during his race epitomises everything this award stands for. We salute him for his determination."

Ardi credited his coach Roderick Eng's guidance and also highlighted the support from his family, such as his mother, who ferries him and his two brothers between training and school by car and prepares meals for them.

He said: "They all motivate me to keep on going and it's with their support that I can go even further."

Ardi is aiming higher. He first represented Singapore at the Asean School Games in Malaysia last year and will be competing in this year's edition in Indonesia in July. He has also set his sights on the year-end SEA Games in the Philippines, although he knows his 1,500m best of 16:25.64 is some way off the 15:28.69 qualifying time.

Hoping to make the cut at next month's Singapore National Swimming Championships, a SEA Games qualifying meet, Ardi is training eight times a week with his club, Aquarian Aquatic School, while juggling school work.

He also regularly consults his coach on ways to improve his technique and fitness.

Eng, 33, who has coached Ardi since 2016, praised his trainee for his focus and "thirst for information", adding: "Ardi is always thinking about swimming. That's important because there's a thirst to improve.

"He can go far and he's on his way to meeting his goal of representing Singapore in senior meets. He knows what he wants and really goes for it."

Ardi added: "I hope I'll at least get a podium finish in Indonesia... I want to try and get more experience at international meets."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'Never-say-die Ardi aims high'. Print Edition | Subscribe