KL-born Steve Khiew Hoe Yean is the second and youngest son of local Malaysian parents who swam his way to stardom by winning countless medals since the age of eight years old. The young national swimmer became the talk of the town as he broke two new national records, namely in 200 metres (m) backstroke and 800m freestyle event at the Malaysian Open held in the mid of 2021. Subsequently, he also broke another national record in Spain Swimming Championship for 400m individual medley in August 2021.
How did you get into swimming?
I started swimming when I was seven years old and took me about 4 months to learn all the strokes. At 8 years old, I participated in competitions and won my first Bronze medal during the Majlis Sukan Sekolah Malaysia (MSSM) Swimming Championship when I was 10 years old.
Who was your inspiration?
My elder brother, Jackson Khiew who’s also studying at UCSI inspired me at first. Growing up, I always thought to myself how cool he looked while swimming and I wanted to be just like him. I honestly did not expect to be great in this sport, so I just kept learning, training and getting better at it.
Do you play any other sports?
I do play basketball as a hobby, not professionally. It is one of the sports that I play to release my stress.
What’s a day in your life like?
My everyday schedule is packed. I wake up at 4.30am to attend my training before school and after school, I will have a quick lunch and rest before my next training session. So in a day, I spend a minimum of 5 hours in the swimming pool daily, except for Sundays.
How do you destress from your hectic schedule?
I like my sports activities, but sometimes I like to relax by spending some time alone. I do like to watch movies just by myself. I only travel for competitions, not vacations.
What was your biggest challenge?
The hardest time in my whole career was when the state team didn’t have a coach so I had to train independently and my mom became the coach for me along with my brother for more than a year. I witnessed how my parents supported me and realised their sacrifices during those challenging times and even now, they never gave up on me. They told me, “If you want to do anything, just remember this is your goal so just do it. Anything you need us to do, just tell us and we will do it for you.”
How did the pandemic affect your life as a swimmer?
During the Malaysian movement control order, we weren’t allowed to train in a pool so we had no choice but to do dryland physical activities to stay motivated and not lose our momentum. I had to find ways to keep fit and train without a pool.
Do you have any pre-match rituals before a competition?
I sleep a lot. Before the race, I will try to sleep 9 hours as I really need that rest and strength to compete. I also think about my strategies and replay in my mind what I am going to do because it is not only about how fast you can swim, but also what the strategies can do to win.
Why did you choose UCSI to pursue your studies?
I know UCSI existed when I was fifteen years old and my brother applied to study at the college at that time. Also, one of my seniors from the swimming team was studying at UCSI as well so I am familiar with UCSI, and I feel it’s more convenient for me to study here because it is not too far from my house. It has always been one of my top options so why not? I heard it’s a good university and they offered me a scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours).
How do you juggle sports, studies and social life?
It is very hard to balance both. Normally after my busy day, I will try to study for an hour at night before my bedtime. There is barely time for me to play with my phone and most of my friends are either from class or the swimming team, that I meet every day. Overall, this sport made me more disciplined and I am able to manage my time very well.
What is your ambition?
My ambition is to become a professional athlete or a professional coach. Other ambitions would be either a developer or a successful businessman.
Who is your role model?
Missy Franklin, who I have met once in my life. She told us why she smiles before jumping into the pool during competitions, “I need to be happy with what I am doing.” Although she has retired, she still inspires me today.
What is your motto in life?
There are no shortcuts in life. There are no easy ways to pass. It is about how to train to improve yourself, it is about how hard you can train to improve yourself.
What is your advice to your athletes?
Never give up and try to balance everything. No matter how many times you fall, you still get back up and try again. That’s the most important thing you need to tell yourself.
Follow Steve and his journey on @stevekhiew