I was a competitive swimmer for 20 years of my life. So, ever since I was six, swimming meant getting from one point to another in the shortest time possible. An obsession with timekeeping became a by-product of my preparation as an athlete. So my interest in watchmaking is only natural.
My first international tournament was in Taiwan way back in 1997 at the age of 11.
My excitement was palpable and impossible to control, and only increased when we landed in Kaohsiung International Airport. Walking past the array of brightly-lit duty free watch stores blew my mind, as it would any 11 year-old's. Some of my most vivid (and cherished) memories are from the time spent with my father after my championships when we would window shop at these stores. Actually, I was just tagging along, wondering why these little timepieces fascinated him so much.
Soon I started to notice Omega displays counting down days, hours and minutes to the next Olympics. At that time, participating in the Olympics was my distant dream but it seemed an ocean away. Omega has been a brand synonymous with the Olympics and excellence in timekeeping. They have been the official timekeepers for 27 editions of the greatest sporting spectacle in the world - a jewel in their bezel, indeed.
The Water Cube, Beijing Olympics 2008
Early in 2008, I stood looking at yet another Omega countdown display, this time at the Malaysian International Airport, as a 21-year-old. It showed I had under 180 days to make the cut for the Beijing Olympics. 180 days later, I punched my ticket to China.
And one month from that day, I swam the 200m Butterfly in Beijing that turned me into an Olympian, and my effort was recorded on an Omega Live Timing system. To mark the biggest achievement of my career thus far, my father gifted me—you guessed it—an Omega Speedmaster, a watch I wear with pride to this day.
I have realised that through the ebb and flow of my life, two things have remained constant. One: I never stopped chasing my dream of representing my country at the Olympics. Two: Just as I did back in 1997, I still find great joy in window shopping at airport watch shops even today.
I would like to leave you with two watches that have been an important part of my personal milestones. On the left is the Olympic trophy Omega, and on the right is the Omega Speedmaster Rio 2016 edition, which I wore to mark my first-ever stint as a television presenter on Star Sports.
As I write about my passion for swimming which progressed into an affair with horology, two of my favourite quotes seem like a fitting way to end this: "Time and tide wait for no man" and "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." Throughout my swimming career I raced against time. What I learnt is that it's important to seize the moment, take the proverbial tide at the flood. So, go on - Carpe Diem, my friends!