Late bloomer out to make a splash
Less than three years after almost calling it quits, swimmer Benedict Boon now targets SEA Games gold in front of home fans
Just a few years ago, swimmer Benedict Boon felt that he wasn’t going anywhere in the sport.
He made his debut in the South-east Asian Age Group Swimming Championships only at 16, when his peers had done it way earlier and were already making the step up to the South-east Asia (SEA) Games or better.
The Singapore Sports School student wanted to hang up his goggles, but the school’s director of sports Dr Irwin Seet managed to talk him out of it.
Boon, now 19, said: “It was demoralising. So many of my peers were going overseas for training and competitions... but I wasn’t making any progress.
“I scored three A1s and two A2s for my ‘N’ levels and thought then that it was time for me to leave swimming and focus on something else, but Dr Seet talked me out of it.”
The late bloomer also credited his coach Fang Hai Jiao for pulling him out of his own doubts, and nurturing him.
More than two years on, Boon is readying himself for his debut at the SEA Games, on home soil no less.
The Republic Polytechnic student will be competing in the men’s 1,500m freestyle with Teo Zhen Ren, and is also pencilled in for the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
Boon said: “I used to prefer the sprints, but my mother asked me to consider the 1,500m event and convinced me that I had the potential to do well, so I gave it a shot.
“It is the second-most tiring event, after the 400m individual medley, and the most boring one since it runs over 30 laps, but that at the same time can be exciting as well because you have 30 laps to strategise how to win the race.
“So I kept going at it.”
While Boon may be late to the international swimming scene by the sport’s standards, in a way the timing of his debut is just right.
He said: “I am very excited to be able to make my SEA Games debut in front of a home crowd.
“One of my main goals will be to do Singapore proud; I don’t want to disappoint, I want to do well, and I will have that extra bit of motivation to do so.
“I want to win the gold medal in my events. With the home crowd cheering me on, anything is possible.”