Some 10,000 miles away from home, Singaporean swimmer Tan Jing-E is training hard to represent Singapore at international meets, and one day, possibly even at the Olympics.
This up-and-coming swim queen is only 17 years old, but has already been making waves in the international swimming scene.
During the 2013 Southeast Asian Swimming Championships, she took home gold medals in all seven of her events and won three championship records in the 13-and-under age group.
In 2014, she also obliterated several national records set by Singapore swim queens in her age category.
She is currently pursuing her dreams in the United States, as reported by Washington Post in an article on Jan. 25, 2018.
A natural at swimming
Given that the Washington Post dubbed Tan a “swim star”, it might come as a surprise that she nearly drowned once.
She was two years old, and had slipped out of the floating devices when she was at the swimming pool.
This incident prompted Tan’s father to make sure that she learnt how to swim.
And once Tan learnt how to swim, she was a natural.
From the young age of seven, she started competitive swimming.
By the time she turned 12, she had already met the qualifying mark for the Asian Youth Games (AYG).
Since then, she has been taking part in regional and international competitions such as the Southeast Asian Swimming Championships and the Asian Games.
Moving to the US
So why did this Singaporean girl end up in the US?
Tan was improving at a breakneck pace and her coach at that time, David Lim, saw her potential to go far.
Lim suggested to Tan’s parents that they consider relocating to the US for a more conducive training environment.
Many other talented swimmers in Singapore, like Joseph Schooling for instance, made a similar move.
Greater opportunities and exposure
The family decided to relocate to the US in 2014 so Tan could maximise her potential and excel in the sport she loves.
Leaving Singapore was a tough decision, but in Tan’s view, a necessary sacrifice:
“It is not easy leaving Singapore, but it’s a sacrifice I have to make for my swimming. It helps that I have my family with me.”
Since moving to the US, she has had the opportunity to train with several different clubs including Michael Phelps’ former club, North Baltimore Aquatic Club and the Nation’s Capital Swim Club in Washington D.C.
She is now training under the same coach as Katie Ledecky, an American competitive swimmer who is also a five-time Olympic gold medallist.
Balancing schoolwork and sports
Relocating, in their opinion, also meant that Tan would not have to choose between competitive sports and academics.
Currently schooling at Holton-Arms, a private, all-girls school in Maryland, Tan has also joined the swim team there.
There, she believes she has found a balance between her schoolwork and her training:
“I think I’ve learned to relax a little in school…I can take better care of myself, get more sleep and put my effort into every single training session.
Given the demanding academic schedule in Singapore, she feels that Holton-Arms gives her a balance that she would otherwise not be able to find in Singapore:
“(In Singapore) People tend to put their school in front of their sport… I think it’s just because of the culture.”
In fact, she even acknowledged that she probably would have given up the sport had she stayed in Singapore.
Hopes for the future
In an interview given in 2014, she once mentioned her dream of going to the Olympics:
“My dream is to compete at the Olympics. Sometimes I go to sleep thinking about it, and I will keep training hard until I’m there.
Currently, though, Tan’s immediate long-term goal is to swim for a Division I college while also continuing to represent Singapore at international meets.
Most importantly, she wants to enjoy her time at school and in the pool without having to give one up for the other.
Top photo composite image from Tan Jing-E’s Facebook