First Olympic gymnast retires

First Olympic gymnast retires
Lim Heem Wei.


Lim Heem Wei, Singapore's most successful gymnast and its only Olympian in the sport, has retired from the national team. She announced her decision through a statement on Singapore Gymnastics' (SG) website yesterday.

"It's been something I've been thinking about after the Asian Games (in October) and I was trying to decide if I should continue until the next SEA Games," she told The Straits Times last night.

The departures of long-serving national coaches Zhao Qun and Yuan Kexia, both of whom were abruptly dismissed by SG at the end of October, provided the trigger for Lim.

"That made my decision a lot easier. I couldn't see the point in continuing with a new set of coaches whom I wasn't familiar with," said Lim, 25, who had been trained by the duo since she was 12.

While a swansong in front of a home crowd at the June 5-16 SEA Games was tempting, Lim did not feel confident about the support from her association.

"They still haven't brought in new coaches in yet and I wasn't ready to take that risk. I might possibly regret this decision in the future but, right now, I feel like this is right for me. I'm happy with what I've achieved in my career," added the final year business undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

Injury had already threatened to end her career in 2009, when she contemplated retirement after undergoing surgery to insert two screws in her left ankle.

But she persisted and went on to become the first local gymnast to win a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi a year later, before captaining the women's team to a gold medal at the 2011 SEA Games.

In all, Lim has represented the Republic at five SEA Games, three Asian Games and two Commonwealth Games.

But it was her appearance at the 2012 London Olympics - the first time a Singaporean gymnast had qualified to compete at the quadrennial Games - that cast Lim as a trailblazer for the sport.

The country's flag-bearer at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow noted: "It has been my privilege and honour to have had the opportunities to bring glory to Singapore.

"Winning my first SEA Games gold medal in 2005, the silver at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the London Olympics, they will always be something I remember for the rest of my life."

An inspiration to many aspiring young gymnasts here, Lim concluded her message by telling them: "I would like to say to all future rising stars out there - life is too short for regrets: Believe in yourself, chase that dream, and never look back in regret."

A farewell party has been planned at the end of this month to thank Lim for her contributions, said SG president Goh Hwee Cheng.

"She's been a role model for a lot of the young gymnasts and an inspiration for them to want to become an Olympian."


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