Rar­ing to go

Young triath­lete Ryan Tan will be mak­ing his de­but at this year’s SEA Games, ris­ing to meet the triathlon chal­lenge.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By SUZANNE LAZAROO star2@thes­tar.com.my

SPORTS has al­ways been the main topic of con­ver­sa­tion in Ryan Tan Qai Shen’s close-knit fam­ily.

“And the topic of our silly jokes! We’re very close, and have al­ways spent a lot of time to­gether,” said the 18-year-old triath­lete, who grew up in Subang Jaya.

“Much of that was be­cause my par­ents would send my younger sis­ter and I to every train­ing ses­sion, and wait right till the end for us.”

So, it’s no sur­prise that af­ter 10 years spent train­ing in com­pet­i­tive sports – which started with swim­ming – Tan will be mak­ing his de­but at this year’s SEA Games in the men’s in­di­vid­ual cat­e­gory of the triathlon.

Triath­letes are some of the most ver­sa­tile and re­silient sports peo­ple around, since the triathlon com­prises three en­durance sports – swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning.

The 29th SEA Games triathlon event will see com­peti­tors start­ing with a 1.5km swim in open wa­ter, fol­lowed by 40km of cy­cling, and then fin­ish­ing off with a 10km run.

Prior to qual­i­fy­ing, Tan spent a few months train­ing with the Hong Kong Na­tional Team.

“Hav­ing just reached 18, I knew I had to train ex­tra hard to even com­pete with the older com­peti­tors, who have more ex­pe­ri­ence for stan­dard dis­tance triathlons,” he said.

“The se­lec­tion race was at such a dis­tance, dou­ble what I did at the time, that I had to in­crease my train­ing regime to cope with it. It def­i­nitely wasn’t a one-man ef­fort, and I would like to thank all my coaches and train­ing part­ners,”he­said.

The de­ter­mined triath­lete evolved from an avid swim­mer, who be­gan his train­ing with the Sri KL Sharkies Swim Club, with his for­mer school, Sri KL, and went on to be­come a state swim­mer for Se­lan­gor.

“Now, I train with the Stingray Swim­ming Club in Ke­lana Jaya,” he said, speak­ing to Star2 vi­aan email in­ter­view from Hong Kong, where he will be train­ing un­til Au­gust.

He started cy­cling when he was about seven, and in spite of a num­ber of falls when he started – “even with train­ing wheels!” – it soon be­came a favourite pas­time. “I could go any­where with my bike – I still feel so free when­ever I cy­cle now,” he said.

“My team and I would meet up every week­end in Pu­tra­jaya to cy­cle. Subang Jaya has a lot of traf­fic, so on week­days, I would do one or two in­door cy­cling ses­sions.

“Nor­mally, if you want to do longer rides, you would get a group to­gether – it can be bor­ing cy­cling alone. Draft­ing each other means learn­ing how to share the load be­tween each rider, and this teaches team­work, which cre­ates close bonds among the rid­ers.”

Tan’s train­ing sched­ule is rig­or­ous – even when he was in his fi­nal year of high school last year, he did dou­ble ses­sions every day, with an early morn­ing jog or cy­cling ses­sion, core ex­er­cises af­ter school, then swim train­ing.

In his rare down-time, Tan en­joys shoot­ing pool with his friends, read­ing science-based books and seek­ing out lit­tle-known and un­ex­plored corners of his home town.

“It’s been a long jour­ney with many ob­sta­cles – wak­ing up at 4am to swim, cy­cling in all kinds of weather and push­ing all the way in train­ing. Sports has taught me many things, like dis­ci­pline and per­se­ver­ance in par­tic­u­lar ... and I ap­ply th­ese in my stud­ies, too,” he said.

“I feel the jour­ney of be­com­ing an ac­com­plished sportsper­son re­quires many sac­ri­fices, and you make and lose many friends along the way.”

In the end, phys­i­cal train­ing is im­por­tant, but with a triathlon’s em­pha­sis on en­durance, the suc­cess of a triath­lete also de­pends heav­ily on men­tal and emo­tional fo­cus and com­mit­ment.

De­spite his youth, Tan seems to have that in spades. And he is buoyed by the firm mo­ti­va­tion he re­ceives from his fam­ily.

“My fam­ily is my driv­ing force for any­thing I do in life – they are al­ways there for me.

“I be­lieve if you have a goal and you give your best, you will achieve it in the end – the sat­is­fac­tion of do­ing that is in­de­scrib­able.”

Tan is look­ing for­ward to rep­re­sent­ing Malaysia in the SEA Games triathlon. — RYAN TAN

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