Q and A with Welson Sim, South East Asia’s Rising Star

Photo Courtesy: DSA Swim Team

By Jinq En Phee, Swimming World College Intern.

Welson Sim. Many in the swimming world have not this name, but soon they will. He’s just starting to make his way into the world class competitive swimming scene. Sim is a 20-year-old swimmer from Malaysia who specializes in freestyle events. He is the first Malaysian to qualify for the Olympics under the “A” category in two events—the 200 meter and 400 meter freestyle.

His recent achievements include beating Australian Olympic Champion Mack Horton in the 400 meter freestyle not once, but twice. The first time was at the Victorian Open Championships earlier this year, and the second time at the Monaco leg of the Mare Nostrum tour just two weeks ago, where he also won a gold medal in that event.

While some other young international stars like Joseph Schooling of Singapore may be more impressive than Sim, consider their training situations. Schooling is based in the United States where he is currently training with Eddie Reese at the University of Texas, a world-renowned coach, team, and facility. Sim was raised in Malaysia and had been training locally all his life. He’s made great strides with limited resources.


Photo Courtesy: Welson Sim

Q: At what age and why did you start swimming?

Sim: “I started swimming at the age of 11 because I had asthma. Someone recommended this sport to my mom, stating that it will help strengthen my lungs. I then fell in love with the water and decided to take up competitive swimming.”

Q: Coming from a country where swimming is not a popular sport, what motivated you to become who you are now?

Sim: “I think of swimming as a passion, not some sport that I took up just to fill in my free time. And because of that, I really enjoy training and racing. I am also a really competitive person, I like to win. I like the taste of victory. And that is why I worked my way up to become the best swimmer in the nation.

Other than that, I like to travel and see the world. I don’t come from a rich family, so I don’t have the money to do that. And since I was getting pretty decent at swimming, I got the chance of representing Malaysia and race in other countries. Just because of swimming, I have traveled to more than 20 countries, met new friends with different cultures; and I don’t plan to stop that anytime soon. My family is also the main reason behind all of these; they support me no matter what.”

Q: What’s the hardest set you’ve ever swum?

Sim: “Probably 10×300 meters best average on a 10 second rest interval, or a 15×100 meter best average right after weights. I honestly don’t really know, I think a lot of the sets are very hard, especially those really long sets with little rest that require my best effort.”

Q: When you compete at the international stage, you’re almost always the smallest person on the field. Do you get nervous? If yes, how do you overcome the fear?

Sim: “Yes, I get nervous before every race. But mostly, I’m not scared of my competitors, their sizes or their names have nothing to do with my race. I’m usually more nervous about how I’ll perform.

It sounds really cliche, but I would say that I am my own opponent. That’s because almost every race I do, people back home are watching and rooting on me, so there’s a lot of pressure going on. But I try to not let that get into my head, I keep reminding myself that I’ve trained really hard for this and whatever outcome I achieve, I’ll be happy with it.”

RIO de JANEIRO 07 AUGUST 2016. Perenang negara, Welson Sim mencatat masa 1:47.67s menduduki tempat ke 6 saringan 3 dan tempat ke 26 keseluruhan, gagal layak ke separuh akhir acara 200m gaya bebas lelaki di Stadium Aquatik Olimpik Rio. NSTP/ROSLI RAHMAT

Photo Courtesy: Rosli Rahmat

Q: What do you think is the most important thing every swimmer needs to have?

Sim: “Confidence, trust (in yourself, your coach, and your training), discipline, time management, and hard work.”

Q: What is your ultimate goal in swimming?

Sim: “I hope to inspire young kids in Malaysia to take up swimming, and to further develop this sport in my country. In Malaysia, sports is all about badminton because it’s the only sport that we have won multiple Olympics medals in. And then there’s squash [racquetball], although it’s not an Olympic event, we had a player who was ranked world number one for a record of 151 successive months.

If you ask any kid in Malaysia to choose a sport that they love, majority of them would say badminton. They all look up to the national badminton players. I want to change that. I hope that swimming will just be as popular as badminton in my country one day.”

Q: Joseph Schooling is the first Southeast Asian to win an Olympic gold in swimming, and he had been the spotlight in the region ever since he won that medal. If you had a chance to follow his footsteps when you were younger, would you do it? Why or why not?

Sim: “No. I am not certain that the type of training in the United States would suit me just because it suits him [Schooling]. I trust my coach, my nation, and I am happy with the service that I receive from the Malaysian Sports Institute. I also believe that one does not have to train in a world class facility, under a world class coach to be the best.

A lot of younger swimmers here in Malaysia believe that one has to go out of the country to train to be better, and I think that it’s a misconception. As long as you believe in yourself, and with hard work, you too can be the best.”

Q: Piece of advice for young swimmers?

Sim: “Be positive, embrace every challenge, and seize every moment and opportunity that you have.”

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.