IT HAS been 16 years now since Englishwoman Sally Proud started raising her teenage sons — Oliver and Ben — under a different culture in Malaysia.
It is even sweeter this year as Proud has been experiencing tremendous joy seeing 16-year-old Ben making waves in the pool.
Ben has been impressive in competitions and this makes him a promising swimmer.
Proud recalled that Ben was only five-month-old when they arrived in Malaysia.
“I felt that it was important for the children to acquire the skills in swimming. Ben got a taste of the pool before his second birthday. Malaysia was a place where Ben discovered and developed his talents in swimming because of the great outdoor environment and exceptional facilities available. His coach Francis (Kiu) also has been doing a good job by guiding him in recent years. It has been hard keeping track with his progress.
“He has been clocking respectable times and good performances at junior and senior levels. He wants to scale greater heights and fulfil his dream of representing Great Britain in the Olympic Games,” she said.
After completing his General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) education here Proud has decided that he should return to Britain and take up the offer to continue his A-level education at a renowned boarding school with a strong tradition in swimming.
“He will be attempting to qualify for the Olympic Games in London next year as well as the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow,” said Proud, adding that Oliver (who is 19 now) is also a competent swimmer and has a keen interest in watersports.
Besides Proud’s devotion in taking care of her children, the 48-year-old single mother has exercised her creative mind through her works in art and design.
“It is fun seeing the boys growing up and I have also learned a lot from them,” she said.
The lanky Ben, who stands at 1.87m, began his campaign with a flying start at the national age-group swimming championships at Malacca in April this year.
The former Alice Smith School student rewrote two meet records in the boys’ Group One clocking 24.85 for the 50m butterfly and 23.58 in the 50m freestyle.
Ben was also part of the Selangor’s record-breaking quartet in the boys’ Group One 4x100m medley and 4x100m freestyle.
They rewrote the records in the medley relay and freestyle relay by clocking out 4:00.59 and 3:40.47 respectively.
At the Malaysian Open in May, Ben came close in matching Daniel Bego’s Malaysian national record of 24.38 in the men’s 50m butterfly final.
He edged record holder Khade Virdhawal of India to win in 24.39. The old record stood at 24.91 set in 2008. Khade settled for silver in 24.90.
In addition, Ben also picked up a silver medal with a personal best effort of 23.40 in the 50m freestyle.
And the Prouds are hoping the good moments will continue to roll when Ben joins the three-time British national age-group champions Plymouth College in mid-September.
“It will be a big change for him and he will need to adapt to his new routines at the Plymouth training camp. Ben has proved that he is able to rise to the challenges and pull through. He is very focused on accomplishing his goals. So far, he has not celebrated his birthday in the country of his birth. It will be a totally different feel for him when he turns 17 on Sept 21,” said Proud.
Meanwhile, Ben has also raised the bar for swimming coach Kiu in his search for a potential young swimmer of his calibre.
“When I spotted him (Ben) at the end 2008, I knew he was a junior champion in the making. He surfaced at the right time and went on to do well at major junior meets. I am confident that he will make the grade at international level,” Kiu said.