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Hectic schedule for Heidi

Heidi Gan (right) posing for a picture with her training partners in Perth.

Publication Date : 23-07-2012

 

Being the first Malaysian to qualify for the Olympics in the gruelling open water swimming discipline shows what a tough cookie Heidi Gan is, nevermind that she is also into cooking and baking.

The 24-year-old Heidi is no stranger to the water having first competed in the pool, winning honours in the 2008 Terengganu Sukma and 2007 Korat SEA Games.

But having opted to pursue her studies in Perth, Australia, Heidi eventually switched to swimming in the open seas a little over a year ago.

And it is in the highly demanding discipline of open water marathon that the law and commerce student finally found her true calling.

Heidi splashed her way to a golden double in the Jakarta SEA Games last year in the 5-kilometre and 10km swims.

If that wasn’t courageous enough, the plucky Sarawakian even survived a potentially dangerous jellyfish sting en route to gold.

But Heidi was not done yet. Last month, she braved the chilly waters of Setubal Bay in Portugal to create history as the first Malaysian to qualify for the event at the Olympics.

Heidi certainly did not have it easy as she had to juggle her time between her studies, training and work in Perth – her usual week comprising an exhausting 10 swimming and three gym sessions besides her undergraduate classes.

Heidi basically starts her day at 4:30 a.m. and goes through the arduous training sessions before calling it a day at 9:30 pm.

That is definitely not the typical routine of regular university students, who probably wake up late and are having fun with their friends by 9:30 p.m.

“Before the Olympic qualifier in Portugal, I was also working two days a week. It got a little hectic so I quit a few weeks before I left for Portugal in order to focus on the swimming,” said Heidi, who worked in a law firm.

“I have also deferred my studies to live my Olympic dream.”

It is certainly remarkable how Heidi manages her life so well given the hectic schedule which calls for so many sacrifices.

It is testament to her iron will and resolve.

But under the hardy, tanned exterior, Heidi is just like any other 24-year-old who enjoys hanging out with friends and having a good time.

She also enjoys cooking and baking, with her specialty being chocolate mudcake.

“I really love cooking, baking especially. I live out of home with my boyfriend of four years and we cook almost all our meals,” said Heidi.

“My parents stay nearby – just five minutes away – so we do go to their house and enjoy some nice meals twice a week but most times we’re in the kitchen ourselves.

“My boyfriend, who is also a swimmer, usually does the cutting and chopping while I do the cooking.

“But now that I have a bit more free time, without the job and classes, I bake more often. My specialty is chocolate mudcake or cheese cupcakes and our fridge is always packed with yummy treats.

“I’m my swimming squad’s "birthday baker", which means I’m delegated with the task of baking cakes for my training partners on their birthdays.

“I particularly enjoy challenging requests. A friend once challenged me to make him an ice cream cake, which I did, bringing it to the pool covered in ice packs.

“Other than baking, I also enjoy shopping and hanging out with the girls (when I have the time and energy), catching up for coffee with friends and spending time with my family.”

Heidi is looking forward to the most challenging task of her life when she takes on a field of 24 other elite swimmers at the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park at the Olympics.

She may not be one of the favourites, but anything can happen at the Games, especially in marathon swimming. Who knows, Heidi may just cook up a surprise.

 

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