Fang Jianyong, 25, is a Singaporean national middle-distance runner who will be competing in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games to be held here next month. He specialises in the 800m and 1,500m.
When Fang Jianyong was in Shuqun Primary, he loved challenging his friends to run the 50m sprint during recess time.
Now 25 and a national middle- distance runner, he said: "I found it pretty exciting during those races. And the feeling I got when I beat my friends was really satisfying."
So although he did play football, basketball and other sports, running simply came more naturally to him.
"I think I could do it better than other kids," he said.
Since the time he started impressing his teachers on Sports Day in Shuqun Primary, he has concentrated on running. He represented Shuqun in the 200m and 400m sprints. "I think that as kids, you can only run these distances," he said.
He went on to represent Jurong Secondary in cross-country (B division), which earned him a third placing.
In Secondary 4, he switched to the 800m, when his coach at the time discovered his talent over that distance. "I made it to the finals of the national meet," he said.
Although he did not win, he kept focusing on the 800m and 1,500m (his secondary event) while studying at Singapore Polytechnic.
"I've got the base speed for 800m, so it comes more naturally for me," he said.
While still at the polytechnic, he got his first big break when he took gold in the 800m event in the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships in 2008.
"I was the only Singaporean to break the 2-minute barrier that year," he said.
That win sparked off his running career. He went on to represent Singapore in the Asian Championships, World Championships and other meets.
At the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship last year, he broke the national 800m indoor record with a time of 1min 55.63sec, which was a personal best.
In the thick of training for the SEA Games which is being staged here next month, he is due to take his final semester exams this month for a banking and finance degree at the Singapore Institute of Management.
And he is going it alone for his running. He has not had a coach since parting ways with his polytechnic coach when he enlisted for national service in 2010.
It is by choice, he said. "I don't really agree with their training methods, as they don't suit me well. So I started training alone," he said.
He just loves to race. In 2012, for example, he ran in an eye-popping 54 races, which is more than one a week. He said: "I think no coaches will approve of that many races."
He is interested in learning about new training methods. He tries them out to see which methods suit him better. Because he is his own coach, this approach helps to get the most out of the journey, he said.
"I feel that at the end of my running career, the reward is not solely based on my results but rather how much I have learnt and grown as a person," he said.
Of the SEA Games, he said he feels honoured to represent the country on home ground. Although he has competed for 15 years, this will be his first SEA Games.
There is more pressure competing at home, he said, as expectations are higher.
"But a lot of it is actually self-imposed stress," he added.
Although his pet event is the 800m, he thinks he may have a better chance at a SEA Games medal in the 1,500m.
"I think a bronze medal is more realistic," he said.
This article was first published on May 6, 2015.
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