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    When an Olympic Champion Pushes the Boundaries of Life


    26 Apr, 2024

    17 : 41

    "I had to train for six to eight hours each day and swam about 15,000 to 20,000 metres daily. With this regimen, I would swim at least 5,000 kilometres a year. This is equivalent to four times the distance between Shanghai and Beijing."


    On 22 April, Ms Zhuang Yong, China's first Olympic champion in swimming, shared her remarkable experiences at the Planet Leadership Series event at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang. Her description of her rigorous training astonished the more than 300 attendees in the audience.


    People familiar with China's swimming scene know the name Zhuang Yong. At the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, she won the Silver Medal in the women's 100-metre freestyle event—China’s first Olympic medal in swimming. Zhuang Yong triumphed at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, winning the Gold Medal in the same event and becoming China's first Olympic champion in swimming.


    When Zhuang Yong stood on the stage at the Planet Leadership Series and told her story to YCYW teachers, students, parents, and swimming enthusiasts. she had already transcended her role as a trailblazer in Chinese swimming. She had also achieved a magnificent transformation as an MC, investor, and entrepreneur.

    • "Resilience is not innate; everyone needs a reason to persevere."

      Ms Zhuang began her talk with a story about changing her name.


      She began swimming at the age of four. After learning the Chinese character 泳 in the first grade, she told her family that she wanted to change her given name from the original Chinese character 咏, which means “to recite poetry” to the other Chinese character 泳, which means “to swim”. The two Chinese characters are homonyms; both are pronounced “yǒng”. But one has the meaning appropriate for an avid swimmer. It seems at as though Zhuang Yong was destined to form a profound relationship with water and become a champion swimmer.


      At the age of twelve and a half, Zhuang Yong formally joined the Shanghai swimming team, and started a regimen of rigorous daily training. She believes that resilience is not an innate quality. Rather, it is something one must cultivate by finding a reason to persevere. For Zhuang Yong, the driving force was her love for the water; the affirmation that comes from harnessing her talent through professional training to achieve outstanding results; and her commitment and aspiration to stand on the world podium.


      "In the world of professional swimming, each day is a double test of both will and body. But everyday, I remain true to myself. This kind of resilience has not only enabled me to triumph in the water, but has also become a key factor in my life. I am convinced that in the art of 'being myself,' I am unbeatable," she said confidently.


    • "Championship marks the peak, not the finale."

      When her swimming career reached its peak and she was in the public spotlight, she decided to retire in 1993.


      Explaining the reason for this decision, she said, "I chose to retire, not because I was afraid of challenges, but because I wanted to try different possibilities in life."


      Determined to break through the boundaries of her life, she bravely explored her personal characteristics and potential. She pursued industry opportunities aligned with her interests, and actively engaged with others in emerging societal trends. During the last thirty years, she has made her mark in various industries, including media, advertising, and investment, and culminating in the co-founding of a prominent Chinese outdoor LED screen media company.


      It was not easy to leave the winner's podium and begin anew. After retiring, she went to Hong Kong SAR, where she needed to relearn everything and adapt, including to a new language environment and a new way of working. Because her athletic career had instilled resilience and adaptability in her, she was able to face challenges, both large and small, with equanimity.


      She explained, "I learned that life offers more than the confines of the swimming pool. There is a wider world out there waiting for us to explore." She used her experiences to inspire the students in the audience and encouraged them to boldly explore their own interests and the myriad possibilities. "In competitive sports, there is only one champion, but in the education, everyone can triumph."


      When asked how to deal with setbacks encountered during such personal quests, she replied, "The real challenges are always outside your comfort zone, and even beyond your comprehension. These so-called obstacles are, in fact, the keys that open new frontiers. At these moments, having confidence in oneself is crucial."


    • The event took place at YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang, with students and teachers from other Yew Chung and Yew Wah schools tuning in via online channels. The event was additionally broadcasted live on Sina Education and other platforms.

    • "Sports provide a foundation for an active and healthy life."

      Ms Zhuang's athletic achievements, her resilience, and her conviction that life has no boundaries are very much in line with YCYW's educational philosophy.


      As Mr Damien Hehir, Education Director of YCYW, said in his opening speech at the event, YCYW firmly believes that exceptional education reaches far beyond the traditional classroom; education flourishes in the vast expanse of the global community and in open dialogue. The Planet Leadership Series hope to introduce valuable insights from diverse fields, such as education, culture, art, technology, business, philanthropy, and sports, and to stimulate new perspectives.


      Physical and health education and sports have a pivotal role in YCYW's holistic approach to education. Mr Hehir explained, "Sports play a significant role in building character. Through sports, students learn about success and failure, commitment, practice, resilience, and teamwork. Students can build lasting relationships through sports, which provide a foundation for an active and healthy life."


      Yew Chung and Yew Wah Schools offer a wide range of sports courses and programmes. These not only provide professional and scientific support for students participating in high-level sport competitions, but also ensure that all students have opportunities to experience the attraction and joy of sports.


      Mr Michael Mei, Chinese Vice Principal of YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang; Mr Michael Hampshire, Regional Sports Manager of YCYW; and two student representatives had a discussion with Ms Zhuang Yong after her speech.


      Mr Hampshire believes that having an athlete who has won honours in world-class competitions come to campus is a valuable learning opportunity for students. "Ms Zhuang's story of winning the Gold Medal is obviously very impressive, but we were also able to understand how she has applied the lessons that she had learned in competitive sports to her life outside of sports."

    • Encouraging the students

      At the end of her speech, Ms Zhuang imparted a message to the students, "As you look to the future, I hope you have the courage to embrace new concepts and ideas from the wider outside world. I also hope that you will continue introspection so that you can truly understand yourselves."


      On the morning of the event, YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang hosted the Yew Wah Summer Cup Swimming Gala. Students from YWIES Zhejiang Tongxiang, YCIS Shanghai, and YWIES Shanghai Lingang competed. Inspired by Ms Zhuang's afternoon speech, these students eagerly pulled out their swimming caps and asked for her autograph.


      On their way back to Shanghai, students from YCIS Shanghai excitedly discussed how they would like to emulate Ms Zhuang to become professional swimmers and participate in internationally competitions.


      The ripples from the swimming arena of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games once again ignited the passions of young students!


      We would like to extend our special thanks to our Media Partners