|Photo source: The Star Online, Photography: Azman Ghani / The Star|
We spoke to Heidi Gan, Malaysia's first Olympian in open water swimming competition on how she started on swimming, her inspiration as well as her thoughts on our signature event, Raleigh Round Island Challenge (RIC) which will be held from the 22nd of May to 24th of May 2015.
RaleighKL: How did you get involved in swimming?
Heidi: My parents put me through swimming lessons when I was about 5 years old because they thought swimming was an essential skill to learn. Interestingly, neither of my parents were taught how to swim and still to this day, neither of them swim unless absolutely necessary!
I progressed through my lessons quickly and was eventually asked to join the local squad at the pool I was learning at. I competed at my first State Championships when I was 6 years old and the rest, as they say, is history.
Raleigh KL: Who was your inspiration?
Heidi: I never really idolised any particular sports person when I was younger. However, my inspiration probably came mostly from my parents. I, perhaps subconsciously, idolised their hard work ethic and their willingness to sacrifice so much for me as a child – taking me to swim training every day sometimes twice a day, sitting with me all weekend at swimming competitions, driving me far and wide to attend competitions etc. It made me want to swim well in return and show them that their efforts weren’t for nothing!
RaleighKL: What motivates you to keep swimming?
Heidi: My motivation is to find my limit as an athlete. I want to push myself everyday in a sport that I love in an effort to find my physical and mental limits. Open water swimming is as much as a mental sport and it is physical and I love having to test myself daily in my training environment and also in competitions against other elite open water athletes.
My ultimate goal is to also qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in the 10km marathon swim. This will be a tough mission to accomplish but I am equally excited about the opportunities to test myself and develop as an athlete in the journey along the way.
RaleighKL: What do you think about RIC?
Heidi: I think RIC is an inspiring organisation. I think there are many young people in our society these days that have grown up very privileged and perhaps unaware of the struggles people living in communities living in poverty face on a daily basis. RIC offers young people the opportunity to work with these communities and I think opening up this avenue to today’s youths is an extremely empowering and humbling gesture for both parties. Educating others about the struggles of those who are disadvantaged and encouraging the concept of global citizenship is invaluable to today’s youths and I commend RIC on making this one of its main objectives.
RaleighKL: Would you be part of it?
Heidi: Absolutely! Once I retire from swimming, I will be looking for an outlet to give back to society. I see my swimming career as being somewhat selfish in that I need to focus on myself to achieve my goals, but I hope that I can balance that out by helping others once I retire, which has always been a life-long goal of mine.