Singapore swim ace Clement Lim's painful quest

National swimmer Clement Lim.

Clement Lim is a pill-popping South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold-medal winning Singapore swimming ace.

It's nothing to be alarmed about, though, as he suffers from the genetic disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), and the drugs are approved by the sports medical body.

The pills are necessary for him to cope with the pain.

Lim owns five gold medals as part of the Singapore relay teams from the 2009 to 2013 SEA Games. He is gunning for a breakthrough this year on home soil, in an individual event.

He will be competing in the 50m freestyle, where he will strive to shock swim sensation and teammate Joseph Schooling, and the 50m breaststroke, and should once again be part of the 4x100m freestyle team who will be going for an eighth successive gold in the event.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the 22-year-old said: "Yes, my dream is to get a gold medal in the individual races, but the other swimmers are really strong, too.

"The timings for first to eighth place in the 50m events can be within a second so everyone is a strong competitor, and it comes down to how you feel on the day."


In 2012, Lim lost the vision in his right eye while in National Service. He was sent to the National University Hospital and was diagnosed with AS.

At the time, he had already undergone two surgeries, one for each shoulder, after suffering partial tears in his tendons.

Lim's AS affects his spine and gives him a perpetually stiff and sore back.

"I was actually quite afraid that I'd never be able to swim again," he recalled.

"I kept thinking, 'How am I going to train and race properly'?

"I'd heard horror stories about the condition, that your spine can fuse together, but the doctor told me those were extreme cases and now I've come to live with it."

The Nanyang Technological University student's success in the pool saw him recently appointed a Jabra ambassador.

He listens to hard rock music on his Jabra Sport Pulse before races to motivate himself. He also uses earphones in the gym as they monitor his physical condition while he works out.

Lim is feeling "pretty good" right now.

He clocked a personal best of 23.26sec in the 50m freestyle at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 28.45sec in the 50m breaststroke at the Singapore National Age Group Championships in March.

Indonesia's Triady Fauzi Sidiq posted a 23.12 when he won the 50 freestyle gold at the 2013 Myanmar Games - Schooling did not take part - while there was no 50m breaststroke two years ago.


Many experts here believe the 2015 Singapore swimming team are the strongest in years and Lim says they can live up to the hype, because of their spirit.

"I'm very confident the swim team will do well. People always think that swimming is an individual sport, but it's actually a team sport.

"When your teammates are behind you, it can really help to push you that extra bit," he said.

The swimming competition will be held at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from June 6 to 11 and the Sports Science and Management undergraduate is desperately hoping his disease doesn't flare up any time soon.

On bad days, plunging off the blocks or performing a simple tumble-turn hurts.

It got so bad at one stage last year that he was bedridden for two days and out of the pool for a month.

"In the morning, I had to call for my mum just to help me sit up. There were quite a few complications," he said.

Lim hopes this year's SEA Games won't be his last.

"It depends on my injuries and if I can continue balancing both my studies and swimming.

"Hopefully, I'll have one more SEA Games in me after this one," he said.

This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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