KUCHING, March 8: Sarawak has a future in swimming but the state must have a long-term policy for development and training.
This is a view shared by none other than Sarawak swimming icon of the 1990s Tania Bugo who believes that swimmers like her were a result of good planning and implementation in the training process.
Newly appointed as the team manager for the Sarawak Sukma swimming team, Tania also spoke at length in an interview about the challenge posed by Sarawak losing its young swimmers.
Swimmers only mature at 18 when they should be competing at the highest level — at the international level — after starting training at the young age of six or seven, and then continue after such competitions at Sukma which is a championship for under-21 swimmers.
“Look at Olympic swimmer from Sarawak Welson Sim. He started late in his career but now he is swimming at the Olympics.
“We must first have a long-term plan in swimming, then we must focus on the 18-plus group for specific competitions like the SEA Games, the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics.
“Also when we send them to training overseas, we must pick and choose only the best few and not quantity,” said Tania, who was also known as Sarawak’s Swim Queen during her competitive days.
She added another important aspect of a swimmer’s development is not to pressure them and to leave them to do their training under their respective coaches.
“Don’t tell the swimmers to become champions. That will give added pressure to them. Mental development is very important as I had experienced during my time as a young swimmer,” she shared.
Speaking recently at a workshop conducted by the Sarawak State Sports Council (MSNS), Tania disclosed she started training very young and if not for her mother who encouraged her to take up swimming and the rigours of hard training, she would not have achieved her famous victory at Sukma 1990 held in Sarawak.
“I swam not for glory but for the state,” said Tania who did not pursue competitive swimming further after Sukma 1990.
“When I swam, my target was trying to do my best and nothing else, for the rest comes second.
“Also I know my weaknesses and strengths. I focused on getting my gold medals by studying my opponents when I competed.
“I would watch them each time they swam so that I knew when to go faster, for example, as I knew their weaknesses by studying them.”
The former Sukma champion also noted that during the 1990s, things were different compared to nowadays.
The facilities then were poor and training was at the Kuching Municipal Council pool which is only 50 metres long, but nowadays swimmers have access to nutrition, food, money and specialist coaches from overseas.
Tania’s coach during her competitive days was Victor Tan who was respected as a diligent and good trainer.
She even bought her own swimming suit with her own money but it was her determination to swim for the state which motivated her to withstand the tough training.
Amongst others, she had to wake up early every day to train in a cold pool, and her coach would push her to the limits and discouraged her from skipping training, even though she had a long day at school after the early morning training sessions.
She gave up swimming competitively after achieving an unprecedented 13-gold medal haul at the age of 14 and setting 12 records in the process at the Sarawak Sukma in 1990, which is the highest number of medals won in a single Sukma. The record still stands today.
For her, that was motivation enough for her to stop competiting as she had brought glory to the state. — DayakDaily