Based on the current selection criteria by Singapore Athletics (SA), national race walker Edmund Sim, 33, is the frontrunner to receive a wild card spot in the Olympic Games at Rio De Janerio this August.
This is because the current SA criteria puts a priority on athletes who have broken national records in ranking order of the margin that they have broken it.Sim, who holds down a day job as a civil servant, had completed the 20km walk at the Asian Championships last year, in a new national record of 1hour 34 minutes 49 seconds. This is an improvement from his own 2012 record in 1 hour 36 minutes 01 second.
Happy and honoured
Said Sim, “I am both happy and honoured to be the frontrunner. Now I hope that the SA/Singapore National Olympic Committee will nominate me and that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) can approve my entry.”
The wildcard entry will be put into play if no male Singaporean athlete qualifies on merit for the Olympic Games by July 11, the deadline.
If he is indeed chosen to represent Singapore at the Olympics, Sim reiterates that he will be ready for it. Said the race walker, “I have been maintaining a consistent training regime and I will be ready to race at the Olympics. This is further enhanced with sports science advice from the Singapore Sports Institute.”Added Sim, “On top of the physical aspects, I have also been working with a mental skills coach since 2015. Coach Hansen has been instrumental in ensuring that I have the correct mindset and approach towards competition and training.”
Gruelling daily training schedule
Sim’s training schedule is gruelling. Each week, he trains between seven to 12 times. Said Sim, “My day starts at 6am for my first training session. At 8am, I go to work before starting my second session after work. The second session starts between 7pm – 9pm depends my work schedule. I typically end my day between 10pm – 12 midnight. Like runners, my schedule consists of long walks, event-specific trainings, speed and cross training such as swimming.”
Race walking, an endurance sport that dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, consists of two main rules in terms of the progression of steps taken. Firstly, one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times. And secondly, the advancing leg must be straightened upon contact until it reaches underneath the body. Failure to follow either rule will result in immediate disqualification from an event.
Added Sim, “The physical demands of race walking are just as great, if not more, than the other sports. Race walking is also as results oriented as other sports – To obtain good results, there are also sciences and training philosophies to apply. Most importantly, the athlete must maintain good health and remain injury-free to achieve their goals. There is little, except rehab and rest, that one can do, when he or she gets hurt or injured.”As such, Sim’s weekly mileage is about 100 – 180km per week, which is similar to that of most elite marathon runners.
Tough to juggle training with work commitments
But with a full-time job to manage as well, Sim admits that it can be tough to juggle his training with his work commitments. Said the race walker, “It is tough and takes a lot of discipline. Good time management is an essential skill to acquire. For example if I need to attend a compulsory function in the evening, I will have to do the evening training during my 60-minute lunch time. If i need to be at work before my official start time, I have to wake up much earlier so that I can be in the office on time.”
He added, “But my struggles so far, have tell me that I do not have the potential for top-level funding and have come to terms that I will need to rely mostly on my own to achieve my goals. Also, I always maintain that my day job gives me hope in most of my endeavours. Hence I have to do well in my job first and foremost.”Sim also points out though, that he has been neglecting one more important aspect of life – his family and friends, in his quest to excel in both work and sports. He said, “For the past two decades, I have given almost everything to the sport, leaving very little for myself. For example, I hardly had time for social outings, and I almost wiped out my savings in my quest to qualify for the 2013 South East Asian (SEA) Games.”
Continued Sim, “Juggling and harmonising commitments is an ongoing process. There is never a perfect system but one that must be tweaked as and when.”
Never aspired to become a national athlete
However what makes his national endeavours more ironic today, is that Sim never saw himself as a national athlete during his younger days.
Said Sim, “When I took up race walking in 1997, my intention was to pacify my Physical Education teacher. He persuaded me to walk because I had been ‘lazy to run’ in an event in my secondary school Sports Day. From there, I never looked back.”Continued the race walker, “The aspiration to represent Singapore came only in 2000 after a planning session for the 2001 Games with my coach. We set a target to qualify for the 2001 SEA Games and I failed miserably. After that I kept trying but fell flat on my face each time. It has taken me more than a decade – almost 18 years – before I could see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Grapple with misconceptions associated with race walking
As well Sim has had to grapple with some misconceptions associated with the sport. Says the race walker, “Locally, many think that race walking is for the old and injured. This view is further strengthened by mass walk events misconstrued as competitive walking.”
He added, “But like all physical activities, walking is a great way to promote health and fitness. It is common to see seniors swinging their arms as they walk briskly in parks. However we must recognise that age is limitless, like in most other sports, and many offer similar demographic profiles.”
Greatest achievements are qualifying for the IAAF World Race Walking Cup
So far, Sim considers that his greatest achievements in race walking, was to have qualified for the biannual IAAF World Race Walking Cup in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Said Sim, “The World Cup is the mecca for all race walkers. When I first aspired to don national colours, my main goal was to qualify for the SEA Games. At the same time I had also hoped that I would be good enough to walk at a World Cup. Unfortunately the realities of my struggles to meet the SEA Games qualifying mark knocked me hard on the head.”
Added the race walker, “But when I unexpectedly qualified for the World Cup in 2012, I was extremely happy to fulfil this dream en route to my SEA Games goal. That also spurred me to work harder for my plans.”
Passion for race walking continues to burn
Today Sim’s passion for race walking still burns strongly. He added, “But I am unable to find a reason as to why I love race walking and that is a good thing. When there is a condition, things become transactional. As a result there is a danger of losing a passion when that condition is gone. I like the sport for what it is.”
He added, “And for all athletes out there, I believe you should be in an endeavour because you love it, not simply or merely because you are good at it.”