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Gabby Wei: A Big Fish in a Big Pond

Selena Sun

February 23, 2020

At HKIS, one of the most dreaded sports is competitive swimming. The physical and mental toil of waking up at 5 am to repeatedly practice the same strokes until it becomes muscle memory lacks appeal to many.

It’s a grind made for the elite few who are able to cling to the remaining piece of strength inside them and push on.

Gabby Wei (10) is one of these athletes. For her, swimming is more than just exercise—it’s her life. She started swimming when she was five years old and started competing in fourth grade. By training nine times a week with an additional three land trainings, Gabby has developed into a dedicated swimmer and student athlete.

Juggling school work and swimming can be hard for her at times, but her tenacious and driven spirit propel her to succeed in both fields. For as long as she can remember, her goal is to swim in college and hopefully represent Hong Kong in the Olympics one day. APAC Swimming 2019 For Gabby, not much can compare to the thrill she gets from competing—it's the momentous accumulation of all her hard work.

Her pre-race routine, in a nutshell, includes listening to music, strapping up her race suit, and focusing only on herself. She explained, “I concentrate on my ‘game plan,' which is what my coach [David Pool] and I discuss pre-race and I make sure I follow through with it. My best races at APAC were when I focused on my lane and my race. My coach told me the night before we competed to 'control the controllables, control your own performance. Do that and the points will come.'”

And that is precisely what Gabby did when she got up behind the blocks—concentrate on herself and what she could do.

This focused mentality helped Gabby bring home gold for four events at APAC: 100 meter breaststroke, 200m individual medley, 200m freestyle, and the 4x100m freestyle relay.

She said the most satisfying win was the 4x100 freestyle relay. With a time of 3 minutes and 59.21 seconds, the HKIS girls relay team beat the APAC record by a commendable 3 seconds. Nathalie Kerrigan (10), Hannah Tan (11), Gabby Wei (10), and Alys Lindsay (10) broke the record for the 4x100m relay at APAC Swimming 2019 held at the International School of Beijing.

Gabby said, “It was a mix of satisfaction and relief to know that our team could take the record off of the previous HKIS girls relay team. Especially since our team consisted of younger swimmers compared to the older one that held the record.” A Team Sport This team aspect of swimming is often overlooked as it is usually considered an individual sport.

But team chemistry isn’t something that is formed immediately. It takes hours upon hours of timing their jumps perfectly to working on their strokes and speed, until they are swimming as a perfect unit.

Gabby has swum with the three girls in her relay team for a while; Alys Lindsay (10) since the fourth grade, Hannah Tan (11) since seventh grade, and Nathalie Kerrigan (10) since freshman year.

Gabby's also made lifelong friends through the swim team, and some of them are her role models. She said, “In terms of who I look to for inspiration, it would probably be one of the older swimmers on the team who have graduated like Samy Morton, Ivy Richter, and Kiki Anderson. I would admire how they always knew when to step it up for school events such as APAC or China Cup.”

Having lost some of the big point scorers for APAC this year, Gabby knew that she had to "step it up."

“I’m especially proud of the girls team, as they knew they had to rise to the occasion and keep our winning streak going,” she said. Challenges But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Gabby. Every athlete faces hardships, and for her, it was during her freshman year.

She said, “Last year had been a pretty bad year for me in terms of dropping times. It was frustrating going to training and working hard but not getting the results I wanted. But I feel like that only strengthened who I am, as you can’t really have success without a little failure which is what I needed. My plateau showed me that you can’t always PB [Personal Best] in all your races and be complacent with where you are. This year [sophomore] has been a turning point though, especially with my times. I’ve been making best times and breaking some records which I haven’t done in a while. I can’t take full credit because my Stingrays coaches, David Pool and Mr. Wimbush have been really dedicated to bringing my team and myself included to this win.” Improvements and Goals After all the success she’s had this year, Gabby was able to look back and reflect on her growth as a swimmer and person.

For her, accepting that adversities are inevitable and realizing that she could motivate herself further through the experience, was crucial to being able to thrive in an environment where the competitiveness can sometimes be overwhelming.

Her grit and passion in and out of the pool teaches us that the struggles and obstacles we have to overcome are what makes success even sweeter.

Nothing great ever comes easy, and to succeed in any capacity, we have to apply the philosophy of learning from failure to our lives.

The past four years the HKIS girls varsity swim team dominated at APAC, and this time, Gabby played a significant role in their triumph. HKIS hopes to continue to support athletes such as Gabby in their athletic and academic pursuits and be a community that fosters a positive team environment.