Sports 29 Apr 2021

Swimming through challenges: Emma's story

By CIS Communications
Photograph by CIS Communications

Grade 11’s Emma V didn’t start out wanting to be a competitive swimmer. When she first started taking swimming lessons at the age of two, it was because her parents wanted to instill important survival skills in case Emma ever found herself in trouble in the water.

When Emma started at Lakeside in grade 6, she joined the swim team for fun and as a way to get some exercise. But as she started to train and improve, Emma realised how much she loved the adrenaline of racing so she decided to take the competitive plunge.

An arduous journey
Today, Emma has broken at least one team record: the girls’ 100m backstroke event during the dual swim meet on 6 February against opponents from Dulwich College. While it was an important milestone for the grade 11 student, it was a hard-won achievement after a challenging journey.

“About two years ago, I injured my shoulder and had to stop training for a few months while I attended physiotherapy,” Emma tells us. “It was very discouraging for me because the pain didn’t seem to be going away. When I returned to training, it prevented me from swimming most of the longer training sets. I felt very frustrated because I was constantly forced to sit out the training sessions.”

“It was not until a year later that I found out that I had torn part of my shoulder and it would not simply mend itself over time. It took me a few months to find the motivation to swim after this because I was so worried that I would never be able to swim without pain.”

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Overcoming barriers
Despite this stumbling block, Emma’s dedication to swimming eventually brought her back to the pool. She says, “I worked with my physiotherapist and CIS’s swim coaches to strengthen the other muscles in my shoulders. We also designed swimming sets that would not aggravate my injury until I could return to near normal training. The recovery process was certainly not easy and I still cannot do certain exercises or training drills due to the injury, but I remained motivated.”

“If I had not forced myself to continue training and overcome this injury both mentally and physically, I think this injury could have very easily been the end of competitive swimming for me.”

A focused mindset
As Emma worked her way to a full recovery, she began to specialise in the sprint backstroke events (100m and 50m backstroke). She had swum the 100m backstroke at the Singapore Comeback swim meet in December 2020 but with the dual swim meet with Dulwich College approaching she wanted to see how much she could improve. With the help of her swim coaches including Helen S, Emma trained specifically to improve her 100m backstroke. Her ultimate goal: break the CIS team record for the event.

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Although she was nervous during the swim meet, Emma says that she managed to calm herself down by repeating her target split times and the previous record in her head. “By focusing on these times, I was able to channel my nerves elsewhere instead of allowing them to overwhelm me,” she says. “Nerves are helpful because they give you adrenaline but too much of it can cause panic and sloppy swimming, which means you forget your techniques and it often means slower times.”

Her calm approach helped. Thanks to her resolution, Emma achieved her goal and broke the team record for the 100m backstroke event.

Advice for new swimmers
If Emma could share just one tip to help aspiring swimmers wanting to go down the competitive route, it’s a big one: it’s important to set personal goals. “Competitive swimmers train multiple times a week and often early in the morning before school,” she says, “so it’s easy to lose motivation and stop pushing yourself in training.”

“To avoid that, I will always set a target time for myself,” she continues. “Whether it’s for an upcoming swim meet or training set, setting a goal motivates me to push through challenging sets and encourages me to swim to the best of my ability.”

Thank you, Emma. Your story of perseverance and dedication may just be the springboard for aspiring student swimmers. Go Huskies!