In May 2021, recent graduate Dang An Ngo set a new Andrew Hill High School record in the 100 meter breaststroke. Bill Farmer held the previous record with a time of 1:12.43. Dang An Ngo finished in 1:08.32, a difference of 4 seconds and 11 hundredths. Many may believe that this may not be much, yet in swimming, every thousandth makes a difference.
I had the opportunity to swim with Dang An Ngo. He is a great swimmer. His swimming techniques are incredible and unique, and you see him slide in the water with ease. In the competitions, he focuses a lot. One thing I will never forget is his calmness, when I got nervous he would advise me to stay calm and do my best.
Dang An Ngo started swimming when he was five. After a few practices, the coach realized he had some potential. He has met some excellent coaches who have assisted him in becoming a member of the HCMC team in Vietnam in 2016. When he received his first medal in first grade, he started swimming officially. Even though it was a silver medal, a guard told him that silver medals were not enough. Only gold medalists are accepted. Now he realizes that’s simply a Vietnamese joke, however, at the time, he considered it was heartless to tell a child such a joke. He won three gold medals the next season, although he did not win the “All-Around Athlete” Award. He cried a lot when he heard a voice calling a name that wasn’t his name because he felt the award was meant for him. That was the first time he had discovered the concepts of winning and losing. He informed me that he still has a lot of marks in his swimming career. For example, when he received his first salary for swimming, he was overjoyed and pleased even though it wasn’t a large sum of money. He was able to join a national competition when he was in seventh grade. He stopped swimming in ninth grade because he had to move to the United States and transfer to high school. He was able to enjoy Andrew Hill’s swim team in his senior year, and on May 6th, 2021, he broke the record.
Who is your favorite swimmer? Who inspires you?
“Maybe you have thought about the legendary Michael Phelps, but actually I don’t have a favorite swimmer, I admire all good swimmers and their hard work. However, there are still some people who inspire me a lot, for example, Micheal Andrew and Cody Miller.”
What is the best part about competing?
“The best part of competing is when I have fun. You will meet your friends from other clubs that you barely meet and many friends that have the same passion as you. You have a chance to challenge yourself to know what level you are, and get the reward that is worth the effort that you pay in practice.”
When I questioned about his training and how he makes it enjoyable, he answered, “It’s just like a day of school. First, you come and learn something, practice something. Second, be satisfied with what you have achieved, even if it’s small things. For example, you have improved an old skill more perfectly, learned a new skill, and broken your own record […] To Be honest, I am still not able to do it sometimes, and it makes me not feel happy with swimming. Last but not least, stress. Same as many sports out there, swimming helps you reduce your stress so well. You’ll keep your body in the cold water after a long study day or before starting a new day. It will be a place for your muscles and your mind to flex freely, especially for those of you who find it uncomfortable to sit all day like me.”
What do you do to calm yourself while you compete?
“It’s a hard problem, to be honest. First, you have to have a certain technical background and strength to be able to be confident with yourself. And don’t refuse that you’re nervous, it’s not wrong. It’s ok because that means you are paying attention and concentrating on the competition. Also, I don’t think about winning and losing. It will be fun to win, but if you lose, it’s still ok. You can not win every fight.”
How do you prepare yourself before a competition? What mental tool do you use under pressure?
“Actually you don’t have to prepare too much yourself before a competition, because you have prepared yourself in practice. You only need a good body state and good mental status. Your mind can not be clear if your body doesn’t feel well, as well as your strength can not be the best if you are too nervous. You need to sleep well, eat well […] for the best body state, and your mind needs to be focused, relax and clear. Music is amazing. it’s the best thing to create the mood for you, you need to relax, focus or boost up. Music can handle it for you. Besides that, talking, laughing, and singing a little bit also can help you under pressure.”
When I asked how being a swimmer makes him a better student, he stated, “When I was younger, I assumed that if I didn’t swim, I would be a better student. Later, when I stopped, I realized that I was wrong, definitely wrong. Because I was studying all day, I was always stressed. Swimming improves your health and mood, allowing you to do whatever you want, not only study. However, I believe that swimming, or participating in any sport, will make you a better student as well as a better person. You will get more health, mental health, relation, experience, and story. As you usually see in school movies, a basketball guy dates a hot girl in the cheerleader team and is going to be king and queen. Have you ever wished to become that guy, let’s play a sport!”
How did you prepare yourself to break the school record? What did you feel when you broke the record?
“I really didn’t think that I was going to break the school record. That was a big surprise for me. However, I still prepared myself with strength. I have worked out after training sessions to make sure I can do my best. It’s really memorable because this was the first time I have broken the record.”
What is swimming for you?
“For me, swimming is an achievement. My swimming career is an achievement. It’s something to cheer me up when I’m down, doubting myself or bored. I always look back and tell myself “look, look what you did in the past, You can not handle this little thing? Come on, you can do it, don’t be weak”. Also, I can tell people sometimes that I was a swimmer [..] what I have achieved and that I have a story to tell. It’s so boring that a person doesn’t have a story to tell, isn’t it?”
Did swimming help you in your college application? Do you plan to continue to swim and compete in a club in the future?
“My swimming didn’t do anything when I applied for my college, but I hope that it’s going to help me in the future when I transfer. I plan to continue to swim and in a club in the future. I really want to go back to swimming and have competitions.”
“Don’t worry, just have fun! Swimming is not just about winning or losing.” – Dang An Ngo
By Sthefanny Barreira