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This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Laura Atkinson, a 19-year-old from Malaysia who currently attends Millikin University in Illinois.
We are more than a couple of months into summer and I am still getting up at 7:00 am and working out five days a week. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept most of us at home during this time.
While things aren’t as hectic as during the semester; it still has been pretty busy. Recently, Millikin Swimming posted on its Facebook page “14 Swimmers Earn Dean’s List Spring 2020”. Not long after that, Millikin Athletics announced, “Millikin University Swimming Selected as Scholar All-America Team” by The College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America. Millikin was one of 461 schools to receive the award for the Spring Semester. Teams were selected on the basis of their Spring grade point averages and represent 17,982 student-athletes. Coach Molly Duesterhaus has helped to make this award possible by always keeping a keen interest in all her athletes’ work in class.
Coach Duesterhaus (popularly known as “Coach D”); has helped encourage us to get into an exercise routine during this summer. Any of the swimmers on our team could choose to join in on this daily program from wherever they are, just to have a certain level of fitness. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we do workouts outdoors if the weather permits. Otherwise, it is an indoor circuit workout or we would watch a cardio workout. Tuesdays and Thursdays are recovery days with yoga.
The unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the calendar plans, not only for us swimmers; but for everyone in general. Some swimmers, even those at the top of their game have suggested restarting the season in 2021 as they are not motivated to start now. My dad always says we must be self-motivated; that 99% of motivation comes from within ourselves, the balance 1% is from external influences like motivational talks, people around us, etc.
He and my mum made plans somewhere in the beginning of this year to visit me for a few days during the summer. I was planning to show them around Millikin University and Decatur. My dad toured Decatur city and certain parts of Springfield when he was here last fall. He has made many friends with the local city folk. He even attended mass at one of the local churches here, too.
In the meantime, I have been in touch with my swim team friends in Malaysia and those that are in college here in the United States. While we are on summer break; those back home have almost moved back to their daily routine of school and training; with social distancing practices in place. Here, we have been busy making masks with a compartment to place a filter in them. These filters are interchangeable. I have made over 30 face masks during this pandemic, and I hope to make at least 30 more to keep my family and friends safe and healthy.
The “fun” part of this summer break (the whole break has been the fun part 😊) is thinking up some of the zaniest business ideas. After all, I am an Entrepreneurship major! I am still working out on an idea on how to turn my grandma’s buttercake with icing; the world’s best (nothing can come close to it) into a global cake bakery and restaurant, at the same time housing small cottage businesses like a florist, gift-card makers, arts & craft, the list goes on…with a purpose of creating an inter-dependence with a motto of “prosper thy neighbour which will, in turn, prosper thy self”. This means we complement each other’s businesses. I know it may seem incredibly challenging in this day and age of online shopping, home deliveries, etc. Being all wired up through the internet may be the norm of current times. I am looking at the idea of people wanting to disconnect with the internet for a while, at least; and do something physical like race at the NCAA swim meets. Then, they can visit us and taste the best buttercake with icing in the world. Let’s hope I have mastered baking and icing this awesome cake by then. Haha! I am in the right place, the United States; where great ideas can turn into fantastic business opportunities.
The on-going pandemic may seem to have made attaining our dreams difficult or impossible. For me, the one most important thing to do is to hang on to my dream. When I was 9 years old, I decided I wanted to be a world champion swimmer. I worked hard towards that by attending all my training, hardly ever skipping any sessions unless I absolutely had to; by competing in every swim championship, winning many medals, being selected as a state swimmer, representing Selangor(my home state in Malaysia); competing in many national championships; the list goes on… My dad always tells me when a situation arises making reaching our dreams impossible; do not compromise our dreams by changing them to make it easier but adapt and change how we do things to attain our dreams.
I am not world champion yet, but I have not lost sight of that dream. I am in the United States, home to most of the world’s best and fastest swim athletes. I am looking forward to the day when I can race against the likes of Lilly King and Alia Atkinson. I believe they can bring the best out of me. It would be fun. What I have gained along this road of my swimming career is I have become confident in the things I want to do. I have had many little successes along the way, the latest being is that I have learnt to cook meals and I bake some of the best chocolate chip cookies in town. I have also learnt how to sew. All this in view of becoming self-reliant when I move to my new apartment in the Fall 2020 semester.
Competitive swimming for me is the way my life revolves around me, I guess. I attend all training sessions and I am “present”, both physically and mentally. Each training session may seem repetitive, but it is not. At least I choose not to treat it as such. This is because as each second goes by, I am not the same as the second before. I have to work towards continuously improving my strokes, technique and speed. I am happy with the takeaway after each session, even if there is a small improvement. Likewise, away from the pool; I apply the principles in the way I do things, aiming at accomplishing all that I set out to do each day. In order to achieve my dream, I will have to take things day by day.
Laura Atkinson is a 19-year-old native of Malaysia. She is currently an entrepreneurship major in Millikin University’s class of 2023.