'Corridor Runner' Nicholas Rachmadi gets SEA Games nomination
Sports School student battles against the odds, earns SOF-Peter Lim scholarship
Running along school corridors is an activity that is usually frowned upon.
But, for Singapore Sports School (SSP) student Nicholas Rachmadi, 17, the corridor paved the way for his transition from a stagnating swimmer to a budding triathlete.
He discovered that unlikely training venue for runs while he was with the SSP's swimming academy three years ago.
He had wanted to try out running, but was not allowed to join the athletics team for training.
Undeterred, he turned the 250m walkway outside the SSP's gym into his personal running track. He would go on his runs there, clocking up to 10km a day.
Although it attracted glares from teachers, Nicholas, who earned the moniker "Corridor Runner", was unperturbed.
He told The New Paper: "The track was always occupied, so the only place I could think of was the corridor.
"I would just run up and down, and people would be wondering what I was doing."
After three months' training, he won his first competition at the 2016 Ultra Aquathlon in the U-15 dash category (300m swim, 2km run), beating 17 others with a time of 14min 29 sec.
In February the following year, he beat three of four SSP runners in the Under-18 boys' category of the national cross-country championships.
Last month, he earned a SEA Games nomination for the duathlon mixed team relay, after finishing first, along with Ahmad Arif Ibrahim, Herlene Yu and Emma Middleditch, during trials organised by the Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS).
He said: "It came as a surprise, but maybe it's part of God's plan. Now there's no swimming and it works better, since I have exams this year and don't have to spend so much time at the pool."
Nicholas will get a boost in his sporting career today. He will receive the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship, along with 279 other recipients at Temasek Polytechnic.
He will be getting a $5,000 award under the Under-18 High Performance category, along with 52 other athletes.
INCREASE IN SPONSORSHIP
This year, the total sponsorship amounted to $781,000, more than last year's $771,000 for 269 athletes.
Nicholas' Indonesian-Chinese father Paul was a key figure in his son's switch to triathlon.
Nicholas felt that he had reached a plateau in the pool after 10 years.
His dad encouraged him to try triathlons and linked him up with an external triathlon coach, Eugene Lee.
Lee, 41, who later became TAS technical director, knew that Nicholas would be nominated for the SEA Games in either the duathlon or triathlon.
"Nicholas is a team player with strong values that are great for the sport," said Lee.
"He went against the norms with his determination.
"It is such a fairy-tale ending because if his father did not fight for him to be in the sport, he would not be where he is now."
It took a lot of effort from Nicholas and his dad to convince SSP to allow him to make the switch.
But they succeeded, with Nicholas moving from swimming to triathlon last year, when he embarked on SSP's International Baccalaureate programme.
Although he had hoped to qualify for the SEA Games triathlon, Nicholas, who calls himself an underdog, is excited to represent the nation at the biennial Games for the first time.
Despite having to balance training with studies, the aspiring surgeon copes by focusing on one activity at a time.
In a typical week, he swims five times, clocking 25km in total, cycles 200km and runs thrice, going up to 40km.
But his training has not gone as smoothly as those corridor runs.
Recently, he has been working on returning to competition shape after suffering a second-grade tear on his inner groin that took two months to heal.
But when he feels tired, he thinks back to when he won the duathlon trials for a motivational push.
He said: "When I crossed the line, my mum was crying and my dad was, too. It was really emotional. I gave them a hug and said 'I made it'."