SINGAPORE - National swimmer Nick Tan learnt to swim at the relatively late age of nine, and was 13 when he started competing at Raffles Institution.
But the late start did not deter the ambitious young man. He said: "After two months of swimming two or three times a week, I told my parents to sign me up for a more serious training programme."
He joined the Swimfast Aquatic Club, where he still trains today, and quickly went on to represent Singapore at his first international competition at the age of 15.
Success came swiftly but so did failure, a year later, when he did not make the mark for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
The 24-year-old said: "You spend so much time preparing for competitions. When you don't do well, you feel like you've failed in life."
Luckily, his parents, coaches and older swimmers put things in perspective for him.
"I learnt that swimming is not what defines me, it is just one aspect of my life," he said.
He also learnt to take a step back when things do not go his way.
"By putting less pressure on yourself, you will have a better time training and will naturally do better."
He won his first gold medal at the SEA Games when he was 18.
The sprinter, whose pet events are the 50m and 100m butterfly, is a former men's 50m butterfly national record-holder.
Mr Tan, who graduated from Harvard University earlier this year, has done some modelling. He is also writing a book about his experiences and picking up golf.
His father is retired while his mother is a homemaker. He has an older sister and a younger sister. He stands 1.85m tall and weighs 73kg.
What do you do to keep fit?
I train once or twice a day, up to 10times a week, except on Sundays when I do not touch the water, but I may sometimes play a game of tennis.
A typical swimming session consists of a warm-up set of 30 to 45 minutes, a high-intensity main set lasting an hour and a 30-minute cool-down session.
Swim training is quite boring, but what really helps is the focus on different aspects such as speed, power and endurance, which keeps my mind busy on how to improve myself. I try not to zone out.
In addition, I also hit the gym two or three times a week. As a butterfly sprinter, I focus more on upper and lower body power and explosiveness. For example, I do a lot of plyometric work (jump training).
What is your secret to looking fabulous?
I am like a fish - I love the water, sea, sun, sand and beaches.
I'm also pretty fun-loving and carefree. I love being around people and I believe the daily dose of laughter and fun keeps me energised and living a fulfilled life.
Has there been a time when you were not fit and fabulous?
Not really. Maybe, before I turned 13, when I was skinny and had not started swim training.
Fit and fab is a mentality and anyone can be fit and fab.
I have always been very passionate about fitness and keeping an active lifestyle. If I were not swimming competitively, I would still keep an active lifestyle.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
I listen to a lot of music and also love writing dance songs. I started writing songs after working with some music producers while in America and have been continuing ever since.
What is your diet like?
During a day of intense training, I would have four or five meals a day.
I do not avoid carbohydrates as swimming is aerobically intensive and hence, each meal would consist of both carbohydrate and protein.
How do you keep to a healthy diet?
I do not have a strict dietary regimen, but I have learnt to make healthy choices through my years of working with sports nutritionists.
As for snack choices, I love almonds and blueberries.
I make it a point to avoid sweets and deep-fried stuff on Sundays. It is the day when I do not have any dessert.
But on days when I am training twice, I know I can afford to eat more.
What are your indulgences?
My two main indulgences would have to be dark chocolate and durian.
I like dark chocolate as it is bittersweet, kind of like many things in life.
As for durian, there is nothing like it in the world. Its potency just takes over my senses. I remember trying to justify to my nutritionist that eating durian every day is healthy as it is a fruit.
What are the three most important things in your life?
Food, family and friends, in no particular order.
Food is in the list as I really like to eat. Food brings a lot of flavours to life. When I go to a different country, I can taste the culture through the food.
Considering you love food, do you find it hard to fight food cravings?
I have learnt that it is not about abstaining from my favourite food but moderating the amount I eat.
I have learnt to limit myself to a maximum of two servings of dark chocolate or durian a week.
If you like sweets and candies, go ahead and eat them, but in moderation. Do not deprive yourself and do not starve.
For instance, you do not have to avoid deep-fried food completely, but you should not see fried chicken as your source of protein.
Would you go for plastic surgery?
I personally would not go for plastic surgery, but I can understand why many people would choose plastic surgery - it makes the world a more beautiful place.
Do you think you are sexy?
If being nice is sexy, then I am.
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