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Chasing The Olympic Dream

Coach-Athlete Olympic Dreams

Reuben Rainer Lee Siong En (Track and Field), Simon Lee Renjie (Fencing), Ser Lin Qian (Table Tennis) and Zhou Jingyi (Table Tennis), have one thing in common – the Olympic dream. The Olympic Games is the highest level of competitive play a high-performing athlete would aim for in his or her sporting career. This is also the reason that led them to join Singapore Sports School where they are able to enjoy the top-notch coaching and strong athlete-friendly support.

“When I first joined Sports School in Secondary 1, I already dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games even though I did not have a clear plan in mind,” shared Reuben. The sprinter, who is now a Year 2 student-athlete in the Diploma in Business Studies programme, is aiming to compete at the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympic Games.

“The defining moment that made me realise that I could achieve my goals was the 2018 Southeast Asia Youth Athletics Championships. It was the first time that I ran under 22 seconds in the 200m and I broke the U18 record with a timing of 21.86s. As long as I am willing to put in my best effort and make sacrifices, I will have a better shot at achieving my goals,” said Reuben.

The desire to be the best local fencer was the reason behind Simon Lee Renjie’s Olympic quest. “The Olympics is one of the highest achievements an athlete could get, and I want to show that a fencer from Singapore can make it to the Olympics,” shared Simon who is aiming to win his ticket to the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

For Jingyi and Lin Qian, they were inspired by national table tennis players such as Feng Tianwei, who has won three Olympic medals – two bronze and one silver – along with 10 Commonwealth Games medals. “It is every athlete’s dream to compete at the Olympics, and we would want to see ourselves at the podium finish one day -that is our inspiration,” said Lin Qian and Jingyi who are aiming towards Paris 2024.

However, the four of them knew that the path towards their dream will be a tough and uphill journey. Thankfully, they are not alone. Supported by their coaches who have developed specific and individualised training plans, they are hopeful and determined to make their dreams come true.

“When I met Reuben for the first time in 2015 as a Secondary 1 student-athlete, I saw a tall and lanky athlete who is easy-going and unassuming. When he ran on the track, and when I interacted with him, it was apparent that he is a talent who has the innate capabilities in both physical and mental aspects to be an outstanding athlete in years to come. I sat him down in 2017, we discussed and established a performance pathway for him to achieve his Olympic dream, with specific short and long term goals. This plan serves as a guide for him to stay focused on what is ahead of him and also to allow me to plan training programmes for each phase of his sporting pathway to achieve his performance goals,” shared Track and Field Head Coach Pedro Edmundo Soto Acuna.

Simon has been coached by Fencing Academy Head Coach Shim Jaesung since Secondary 2. “When I first met Simon in 2017, he stood out from the crowd with strong potential to excel in the sport. He was competitive and aspired to become the best fencer in Singapore. I have high expectations of him, and hope that he will be able to increase his level of play and make it to the Olympics, even though it may be a challenging and difficult path for him,” shared Shim. Under Shim’s guidance, the 2019 Southeast Asian Games silver medallist is improving his game and technique to reach a higher level in fencing, as well as participating in high-level competitions to improve his level of play.

Table tennis coach Sun Beibei has equally high expectations of Lin Qian and Jingyi. “Both Lin Qian and Jingyi are gifted, and I hope to see them go further in the sport. They have clear goals of their dream and they are willing to work hard for it. With every training and competition opportunity, we set out clear targets yearly, such as winning the championship title in local competitions, medalling at international competitions, and taking small steps to achieve certain training goals and improve their technical skills. Lin Qian and Jingyi are able to excel and exceed my expectations all the time,” shared Beibei.

Beyond building technical and physical competencies in the athletes, the coach-athlete pairs have developed a strong rapport, trust, shared beliefs, and mutual understanding – key ingredients to a successful coach-athlete relationship.

“I do not only see Coach Pedro as a mentor in Track and Field but also in life. He has been coaching me since I was in Secondary 1, and he has been with me in every step of my Sports School journey. Win or lose, he would be there to show his support and motivate me whenever I felt down after a bad race. There were many occasions when he was very harsh on me, but I knew he just wanted the best for me. He is one of the few people that made me who I am today,” shared Reuben.

For Simon and Shim, both have a mutual understanding and respect for each other. “As a coach, I understand the difficulties Simon is going through and I will try my best to motivate him and set him back on track every time he loses focus and is not concentrating during training. As an athlete, he must be willing to follow my coaching and believe that my training plans will help him reach the next level as we are working towards the same goal,” said Shim.

Lin Qian and Jingyi are just as grateful for their coach’s dedication and concern. They shared, “Coach Sun is more than just a coach to us. She is like our second parent. She pushes our potential at training, and at the same time, she cares for us and takes care of our overall well-being. When we encountered setbacks, she encouraged and motivated us with her experience. She will also change our training plan to fit our needs.”