Cover Photo: Instagram @welsonsim

The 24-year-old national swimmer Welson Sim is making waves at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in more ways than one

On July 23, the world watched as the Malaysian contingent marched into the Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony during the athletes’ parade. While masked, as per the strict Covid-19 prevention SOPs, team Malaysia visibly stood out as they were decked in attire emblazoned with our cultural heritage, in brilliant colours inspired by our Jalur Gemilang. While golden boy Lee Zii Jia and badminton darling Goh Liu Ying earned plenty of eyeballs for being front and centre as flagbearers, one other Malaysian athlete caught the attention of many during a close-up moment–Welson Sim.

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Now in his second Games, the Sarawak-born athlete is cruising in the fast lane for the men’s 200m and 400m swimming freestyle events at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Although he needn’t hit the waters to quickly trend on social media. Chinese netizens, who caught a glimpse of Sim during the opening ceremony, have taken to Sina Weibo to gush over his good looks. Pictures of Sim, as well as his biography, have also been widely circulated on the platform, earning him plenty of comments and newfound fans–and all it took was a two-second close-up shot.

Here are some fun facts about the gifted 'Malaysian Flying Fish Prince':

1. Overcoming adversity

Being diagnosed with asthma in his early childhood limited the things he could do, which meant that he wouldn’t be growing up like his peers. When he was 10, his mother introduced him to swimming to help him overcome his condition. Not only did it work wonders, by the time he turned 12, he became a part of the Sarawak state swimming team. Three years later, he transferred to Bukit Jalil Sports School, where he joined Malaysia’s league of athletes.

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“Being an asthma patient should not stop anyone from living actively or competing at the highest level in sports. I’m living proof," Sim told The Star.

2. Blazing fast

Before long, Sim became Malaysia's fastest man in the pool. He became a regular in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay quartet and was involved in all the national record-breaking feats from 2013 to 2014. He was also the first Malaysian to break the 50-second barrier in the men's 100m freestyle at the 2019 Australian Championships. The faster he got, the more records he broke–even his own. “Before calling it quits one day, I’d love to leave a legacy by breaking all the national freestyle records," The Star quoted Sim as saying.

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He's currently the national record holder for 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle, and 800m freestyle, with more than 10 Southeast Asian Games medals under his belt including three golds for 200m freestyle and 400m freestyle. In 2019, Sim stunned Olympic gold medalist and reigning champion Mack Horton when he sprinted to perfection to win the men’s 400m freestyle at the Victorian Open swimming championship and scored the gold.

3. The Olympic dream

Like every other athlete, Sim's ultimate goal was to compete at the Olympics. “My aim is to compete in the Olympics. I hope to realise my dream at the 2016 Rio Games. If not, then I’ll target Tokyo 2020," he once said. Well, how about both?

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At only 19 years old, he became the first Malaysian male swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games under the 'A' category in two events–the 200m and 400m freestyle in Rio 2016. He earned his second ticket to the Games when he qualified for the 200m and 400m freestyle in Tokyo 2020.

4. His greatest mentor

While Sim has revealed that former American competitive swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, is his idol, his greatest mentor is someone from home.

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He opened up about his mother, who not only took him for his first swimming lessons but had also been behind him every step of the way. “When I had training sessions at 5.30am, mum would send me to the pool and she will wait for me to finish–two hours later. She is my everything," he said. It's through her sacrifices in ensuring that Sim always got the support he needed that paved the way for his success in the sport. In 2016, Sim headed to Rio for his first-ever Olympics with his mother and sister by his side.

5. Besides swimming

While his daily schedule is usually jam-packed with training sessions and classes, he does have other joys aside from swimming. The freestyle star said that whenever he finds the time, he enjoys playing badminton, going for a hike, or surfing. He has also made his need for speed public, having posted several photos of bikes on his Instagram. 

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