Swimming: Swim star and young fan spur each other on

Amanda Lim, who has won every SEA Games 50m freestyle gold since 2009, giving Caitlin a gift bag containing a signed Rimau soft toy, swim cap and a Games jersey with a handwritten message on it.
Amanda Lim, who has won every SEA Games 50m freestyle gold since 2009, giving Caitlin a gift bag containing a signed Rimau soft toy, swim cap and a Games jersey with a handwritten message on it.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Young athletes who get to interact with their sporting heroes are often left inspired by the experience, but the admiration ran both ways yesterday when national swimmer Amanda Lim and young Singaporean Caitlin Chan finally met.

The meeting took place after Lim, 24, had turned to social media in August to help her locate nine-year-old Caitlin following a minor faux pas at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Then, Caitlin had run down the stands of the National Aquatic Centre to greet Lim but the swimmer missed the young fan and had instead thrown a soft toy of Rimau, the KL Games mascot, to her family in the crowd.

After it was brought to her attention, Lim put up a Facebook post apologising to Caitlin for not noticing her, and sought netizens' help in finding the girl so that she could send a Rimau to her.

She eventually secured the contact details of Caitlin's mother Shin-yi through her friends, Malaysia's former national swimmers Siow Yiting and Eileen Leung, who coach Caitlin.

Lim, a multiple SEA Games gold medallist, told The Straits Times she had been looking forward to the meeting, adding: "Caitlin is a very smart girl - she's so well-spoken.

WITH EFFORT, SUCCESS WILL COME

I just thought maybe I could show Caitlin you don't really need to have everything perfect in your life to do something great in the future.

AMANDA LIM, Singapore's multiple SEA Games champion, on meeting Caitlin Chan at Serangoon Gardens Country Club, where she learnt how to swim.

"I think she will grow up and achieve big things in the future from the way she speaks and carries herself, so I'm also excited for that."

Caitlin and her family, who are based in KL, are back in Singapore for a week as she and her 12-year-old brother Joshua are having their term break. Both attend Garden International School in KL.

At Serangoon Gardens Country Club (SGCC) yesterday, Lim presented Caitlin with a gift bag containing a signed Rimau soft toy, swim cap and a SEA Games jersey with a handwritten message on it.

Chatting with each other about swimming as Lim offered advice to Caitlin, the pair then took a walk to the SGCC pool, where Lim first learnt how to swim.

Revealing that she chose the venue as it held a lot of meaning to her, Lim said: "I just thought maybe I could show Caitlin you don't really need to have everything perfect in your life to do something great in the future."

Caitlin, who also sings, runs and does gymnastics, said Lim had advised her to "always have fun and do my best".

The young swimmer, whose favourite stroke is breaststroke and least favourite is the butterfly, said of her meeting with Lim: "It was quite interesting because I've never really met anyone famous and it was nice to be able to talk to Amanda and get some inspiration and tips on swimming.

"I didn't think I would get to meet her and actually get the mascot because anyone could have caught it, but now that I've got the mascot and met Amanda, it's really cool."

While Caitlin took with her Lim's advice of learning as much as possible while having fun, the older swimmer left the encounter with the realisation that she can play a part in motivating youngsters.

Revealing that she had been kept updated of Caitlin's improving swim times through Shin-yi, Lim said: "It's very real and heartening because it's directly communicated to me that she really wants to do better ever since I reached out.

"I really liked the fact that I could inspire her directly.

"I would like to interact with more of my fans in the future - I won't be able to expect what I can learn from them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Swim star and young fan spur each other on'. Print Edition | Subscribe