British Olympian Ben Proud (centre) together with the Aqua Elite coaches, Anthony James and Matthew Zammit (second from right) with the Malaysian swimmers during the training session in Thanyapura, Phuket.
BRITISH Olympian Ben Proud, 22, is proud of his Malaysian ‘roots’, and would like to return as a coach when his swimming career is over.
Ben, who won gold in the 50m butterfly in the recent World Championships in Budapest, was born in England but his parents came to Malaysia when he was two months old.
He learned to swim competitively while studying at Alice Smith School at Jalan Bellamy, Kuala Lumpur, until he turned 16 years old.
Ben even competed in Selangor swimming events, as well as the Malaysian Open where he finished with a silver but broke the 50m butterfly Malaysian national record. But it was not recognised as he is a British national.
His school coach asked him to stay on and train in Malaysia, but after Ben lowered his mark from 27s to 24s in the 50m butterfly, he decided to venture back to England.
“I knew that to become better I had to go back to England because six years ago, Kuala Lumpur did not have enough facilities to train me to become what I wanted – a world champion.
“I have been returning to Malaysia regularly since, but after six years, I am amazed with the facilities available to train as a swimmer here. Kuala Lumpur has also grown very rapidly,” said Ben in Phuket where he trained eight lucky Malaysian swimmers over the weekend.
His parents never left Malaysia, and run an interior decorating firm in Kuala Lumpur.
Last weekend, eight young Malaysian swimming talents experienced an once-in-a-lifetime two-days exclusive training with Ben and his elite coaches at Phuket.
The AirAsia Talent Pool programme is part of a four-year partnership between AirAsia and the British Olympian in support of his journey towards qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
AirAsia’s Regional Head of Branding Rudy Khaw said: “AirAsia is well known as a dream-enabler that has realised the dreams of millions to travel.
“We believe that dreams should always be pursued and we want to be a part of the journey that inspires young talents to strive and be future Olympic medallists through coaching clinics with world champion athletes.
“This year we conducted swimming clinics with Ben Proud in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu, where over 150 teenagers took part.
“From the sessions, eight were selected to join this exclusive training session in Phuket. We hope that the talents enjoyed this valuable two-day intensive session with Ben Proud and get a dose of his Dare To Dream attitude to make it big in life.”
Proud said: “It’s been an amazing first year working with AirAsia to nurture and develop talent among the Asean junior swimming community.
“All the participants in the program have impressed me with their dedication and determination, and I look forward to continuing this process over the next three years. This weekend has given the participants a real insight into professional preparation and the daily routine of a professional athlete.
“And after retiring from coompetitive swimming, I hope to be based in Malaysia – as a coach,” said Ben.
The lucky eight were: Andi Farhan (13 years old) Bangsar Swimming Club, Nicole Shan Tee Teng (14) Bangsar Swimming Club, Toh Ting Wei (15) Penang Swimming Club, Caroline Lim Shi Chyi (11) Penang Swimming Club, Lau Ting Quan (14) Kingfisher Swim Team, Jess Lee Yen Yi (14) Trident Swim Team, Shairul Aiman Jefry (13) Persatuan Renang Penampang, Amelia Beatrix Chin Zhen Yi (15) Sandakan Swimming Association.