Back in November, AR!SE announced our partnership with Wings Athletics Club as they launched their very own Wings Athletic Club Support Grant 2023. This grant would be given to club athletes who fulfil the criteria for this programme that would provide them with much-needed support as they strive to qualify for the 2023 SEA Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Credits: Fuad Idris
Not all is truly lost
If there was one word to describe Brandon Heng’s athletic career, he says it would be “Growth”. Unlike many athletes whose parents had introduced them to their sport at a young age, Brandon’s athletic career was born out of the need for a distraction after losing his mother to cancer during his first year of Polytechnic. To avoid spiraling down into the rabbit hole of depressive thoughts, the former Republic Polytechnic student decided that picking up a sport would serve as a healthy coping mechanism.
“I was in a very dark place in life just wondering around…waking up every day, going to school, not sure what I wanted to do. I was very lost and jaded.”
Upon stepping onto the track on the day of his school athletic trials, Brandon experienced an immediate affinity with the sport and “knew” that athletics was going to be the sport for him. Seeing other athletes from different training groups working hard at improving their craft showed him what drivenness and dedication meant. This ignited a spark of passion within him to take his training seriously and to work towards goals that he began to set for himself.
“Initially, track was just an outlet for me to let out my emotions. But it ended up teaching me so much, especially to be patient. I regard myself as a late bloomer as I started only in Year 2 of Poly. Most people that were around already had at least a decade of experience already.”
While the 24-year-old athlete often felt that he was playing a game of catch-up, he would remind himself to be patient and consistent in the process as success does not simply come to one overnight. During moments of frustration and disappointment, he states that “adopting a long-term perspective” has helped in keeping him focused and motivated to continue working hard. In addition, the current High Jump POL-ITE record holder stresses the importance for athletes to understand that progress is a process fraught with good and bad days and to take all of it in their stride and move on.
“Being a student of the game. That is something I am quite adamant about. Being able to stay adaptable and coachable as an athlete, learning as much as you can.”
Navigating through obstacles and setbacks
While Brandon’s recent accomplishments saw him rise up the ranks, he has had to deal with his fair share of setbacks. While breaking the POL-ITE record in his final year of Polytechnic was a huge encouragement booster, it also marked the start of his travails. Subsequent performances fell way short of his personal best coupled with a string of injuries that added to the pain and discomfort he was experiencing. His shin splints and issues with his Achilles tendon made training and competing particularly exasperating for him and left him wondering if he was just a “one-hit wonder”.
Nonetheless, it was during this difficult season that he met his current coach, Fuad Idris, who played a pivotal role in building his confidence back and getting him back into the game. However, the end of Polytechnic also meant that he had to enlist in National service which temporarily impeded his progress, and being placed in an active unit made it even more challenging to carry out his training plans. While this contributed to the uncertainty he had about getting back on track, his coach would remind him to give his best in “serving the country well” as this too shall pass.
“I wasn’t doing well at all. I couldn’t even clear my usual warm up heights during training and was quite sluggish. But he always expressed how he saw my potential and reminded me that having a younger training age meant that there was still a lot for me to learn and improve on.”
Coaching in session with Coach Fuad Idris (Credits: Fuad Idris)
With added motivation and goals for the future, Brandon stepped back onto the track in full force and cleared a personal best height of 2.08m twice, putting him in 2nd place among Singapore’s current pool of high jumpers. As he shares, he found that being intentional with every training made a significant difference as it made him think harder about what he needed to get better instead of “simply showing up for just another training and going through the motions”. Aside from conquering the physical rigours of the workouts, Brandon had also gained back his confidence and composure during competitions and continues to aim for greater heights. As someone who grew up with a lack of confidence, this breakthrough meant a lot to him as it showed him the power of self-belief and the pivotal role it plays in helping one rise up to the occasion.
The Power of an everlasting Promise
On being asked about what has kept him persevering, the Wings athlete lets us in on a more personal memory that has served as a reminder to treasure what he has and to make the best out of what he has. Prior to his mother’s passing, they both made a promise to each other that still remains freshly etched in his mind.
“Initially when she revealed to me that she had cancer, she promised to fight it till the end of her time but I also had to promise her that I would fight through life till the end of my time. Seeing the way my mum battled cancer till her last breath was the biggest inspiration. Anytime I have a hard training, I just think back at how my mum literally faced death head on. My mum is definitely the strongest person I know.”
Brandon, competing at his very first overseas track & field meet. (Credits: Fuad Idris)
Learning to look beyond yourself
Aside from soaring over higher heights, the current La Trobe University student hopes for his journey to ultimately serve the greater purpose of inspiring others to never give up in the face of setbacks as he believes that no one is simply here by chance. His definition of success? For one to be able to look back on their journey and to wholeheartedly say that they have given their absolute best with no regrets along with the growth and maturity that comes with the process.
“I am honestly quite a broken person but it is by the grace of God that I have been able to do whatever I have done so far. I believe that I’m still here for a reason and looking back, I can really see that there is a lot of beauty in the struggle. There is always something to learn and you have reason to keep moving on and going forward. Perhaps you don’t even know yet but there are people waiting to be inspired by you inspired by you, just as I’ve been inspired by many others, so it is important to look beyond yourself.”
Left pic: Brandon (right) with his younger brother, Raynard (left). Right pic: Brandon, alongside his training mates and coach. (Credits: Fuad Idris)
While Brandon’s story highlights the struggles that he has had to overcome, he stressed the vital part that others have played, and continue to play, in his journey. For this, he credits his circle of family and friends who have supported him in his endeavours. Without them, he would not have been able to accomplish anything on his own.