Swimmer Cherlyn improves after focusing on process instead of result
Teen swimmer Cherlyn improves after focusing on process rather than result
A failure to qualify for last year's South-east Asia Games prompted Cherlyn Yeoh to change her mental approach.
The result? The 17-year-old clocked a personal best of 56.47sec in the 100m freestyle at the Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships in March to qualify for this month's Asian Games in Indonesia.
The Raffles Institution student credits her turnaround to psychology.
The trick is to forget about the end result and focus on the process instead.
Recalling last year's setback, when she missed out on the Kuala Lumpur Games with a 57.86, Cherlyn said: "I really wanted to go for the SEA Games and there was a lot of pressure. I was focusing too much on end results and not so much on how I should be executing my swims.
"It got me very nervous before the race, but now my mental game is stronger."
There will always be pain when you swim, it’s just whether you want the pain to be worth it or not.National swimmer Cherlyn Yeoh
On the advice of sports psychologists from the Singapore Sport Institute, she now uses mental techniques like cue words to distract herself from the fatigue towards the end of a race.
They include phrases like "high elbow catch" to remind her to hold her strokes until the end to catch as much water, and "rotate your hips" to keep her hips stable during the swim.
In addition, Yeoh admits that the subsequent muscle soreness due to her twice-daily training sessions left her dreading the pool.
She said: "Maybe subconsciously during training, I didn't get to push as hard because I was afraid of the pain.
"But I talked to some people and got it out of my head.
"You understand there will always be pain when you swim, it's just whether you want the pain to be worth it or not."
Cherlyn believes that there has been a stark difference since adopting the changes, saying: "The changes have been pretty significant, and it's quite helpful to know that I'm not so focused on the pain."
And the performances speak for themselves. Aside from bettering her mark in March, she also clocked 56.78 at the National Schools Swimming Championships in April to smash Quah Ting Wen's meet record of 57.08 set in 2009.
In June, Cherlyn also won the 100m freestyle at the Singapore National Swimming Championships in 56.61.
This Asiad will be her first appearance at a major international meet, and she will be competing in the 100m and 200m freestyle and relay events, where she will swim alongside seasoned veterans like Quah.
The duo will be part of Singapore's swimming team at this year's Asian Games, and they will be looking to better their haul of one gold, two silvers and three bronzes at the last Asiad in Incheon, South Korea.
Despite a breakthrough year, Cherlyn has set herself modest targets for the Asiad.
She said: "It's my first major meet, so I want to have fun and soak up the atmosphere.
"My main goal is to do a personal best...and if a medal is what we get in the process then that'd be good."