By Sasha Christian/Red Sports
Paul Tan, 29, will be part of the water polo team representing Singapore at the South-east Asian (SEA) Games this December. Singapore has won 24 straight SEA Games water polo gold medals dating back to 1965.
Paul, who is a teacher with the Ministry of Education, shares with us his preparations, challenges and motivations as he gets ready for his third SEA Games.
Red Sports: What challenges have you faced heading into the SEA Games?
Paul: For me it would have to be juggling work and training, while still finding enough time to spend with loved ones. There were periods when I was feeling very burnt out.
Furthermore, I lost my dad to illness late last year and it’s been difficult since. He was someone I looked up to and now miss every day.
What do you hope to achieve at this SEA Games?
Paul: I hope to gain a return for all the work we have put in as a team. All the hard yards and the blood and sweat is temporary. The glory gained from becoming champions of SEA would be forever.
I’d like to think that we can perform at our very best and win another gold medal for Singapore. But on top of winning, I hope we can stamp our authority on SEA water polo and show that we are looking to performing on the Asian stage.
What was your training like in the lead-up to the SEA Games?
Paul: Arguably the toughest we’ve ever encountered. More emphasis on fitness was necessary due to the introduction of a new set of rules. Six days a week. Three hours or more each day. Gym twice and swimming thrice each week, racking up at least 12km a week. Just like our training of previous years but the intensity cranked up a few notches.
Red Sports: How many times have you been to the SEA Games?
Paul: Twice in 2007 and 2011.
What were your previous results?
Paul: Two golds. Thankfully.
Who are your role models?
Paul: Joel Selwood. An Australian footballer. He just puts his body on the line and wills the team forward when everyone else seems to be having a bad day. His sacrifice is underrated.
My mother. When my dad was ill she just buckled down and was the rock of the family. She suffered so much heartbreak seeing my dad in pain but she stuck to it. And never stopped praying that he would eventually be free from pain.
My dad. Cos I miss him and just want to be a better person, someone he would be proud of.
When and how did you get started in your sport?
Paul: 1996, Secondary 1. I loved ball sports. Both my parents were ball players. My mum played netball and basketball for Singapore in her time, so it was in the genes. Furthermore I was a fairly good swimmer but got bored of it so water polo was the natural mix of two.
Which school(s) did you represent?
Paul: ACS (Anglo-Chinese School) Barker and ACJC (Anglo-Chinese Junior College). ACS forever!
What was your best school sport memory?
Paul: Just representing my beloved ACS. But if I had to pick one distinct memory would be being part of four sports in my JC2 year, winning three championships and one runners-up position. This included winning the individual championship in cross country in 2003 along with the team championship.
If you did not play water polo, what other sport would you do?
Paul: I wouldn’t know. I play lots of sports. I would’ve loved to play rugby or Australian football.
Any pre-match rituals?
Paul: Wearing my number 6 cap. Praying. My ability to play water polo is a gift from God.
What is your biggest motivation?
Paul: To be a good example for my younger teammates and hopefully being able to leave a legacy for younger Singaporeans that come after us to continue the golden legacy we have been part of and carry it on. But ultimately, being the best that I can be and honouring my maker by always improving. As I said earlier, I’m under no illusion that water polo is a gift.
Paul Louis Tan Jwee Ann Biography
Date of Birth: June 25, 1984
Sport: water polo (Men)
Significant Achievements: Water polo gold medals at the 2007 and 2011 SEA Games
2003 National Schools Cross Country Boys’ A Division individual and team championship winner
2003 National Schools Track and Field Boys’ A Division 3000m steeplechase gold and 5000m silver medallist; team championship winner
2002 National Schools Track and Field Boys’ A Division 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist
Current Occupation: Teacher, Ministry of Education
Favourite Food: A perfectly cooked steak
All of us at Red Sports wish Paul all the best at the 2013 SEA Games! Do drop Paul a note of support in the comments section if you can. You can also upload photos showing your support of Paul on Instagram using #ourteamsg, or on the Team Singapore campaign’s website: www.ourteamsg.com