|Sixteen-year-old Sports Master B.Yesui, who represented Mongolia in the women’s 50-meter freestyle swimming event at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, spoke in length about how she became an Olympian at such a young age and the swimming sport in Mongolia.|
It hasn’t been long since swimming started developing as competitive sport in Mongolia. What made you want to become a swimmer?
My dad enjoys swimming and when I turned six, he took me to Khangarid Sports Club to learn swimming. In the beginning, I was so little that I couldn’t get my face to the surface of the pool even if I tiptoed. Still, I really enjoyed swimming and trained hard. I used to actually attend dance and piano classes on top of an IQ academy when I was six. But I liked swimming the most so I decided to leave all of them and focus on swimming.
I used to attend competitions held in Erdenet city. Then, my current instructor Altantuya saw potential in me; she advised me to train systematically and asked me to join the Erdenet city swimming team. I didn’t understand her well back then. When I told my parents they said, without hesitation, that I should accept her offer. For a while, I couldn’t handle the intense training and wasn’t very good. Gradually I improved and won a bronze medal at my first state championships. I was elated. Afterwards, I won silver and gold medals and started competing in international competitions in 2014. In 2014, I participated in the Asian Swimming Championships.
My parents gave me the aspiration to become a swimmer. They’re very supportive.
Swimming may be popular in Mongolia but not many people decide to become an athlete. Our best swimmers are nowhere near the level of foreign swimmers. What do you think the reason for this is?
Mongolia doesn’t have a world-standard 50-meter swimming pool, which means that athletes don’t have a place to practice. Most pools in Mongolia are 25 meters in length. A 50-meter swimming pool with two lanes was opened, but it’s not the standard one with six lanes – it’s for amateurs. It’s also expensive. In addition, the government doesn’t support athletes unless they’ve won medals at large international competitions.
You would assume that the state supports athletes from the start to help them win medals at competitions. But it’s not like that. Due to these reasons, swimming isn’t developing in Mongolia. Swimming in a 25-meter pool is different from swimming in a 50-meter pool. Obviously, we can’t compete with foreign swimmers as they practice and train in standard pools, ones used at the Olympics and international competitions.
How do you train?
I train with instructor Altantuya at Khangarid Sports Club. After training with her, I do weight training on my own in the evening. It’s not really systematic but I try my best. I guess things would be a little different if there was a standard pool though. As a matter of fact, it’s highly possible to develop swimming in Mongolia. Many people are being motivated to become swimmers. With a little bit of support, they’d succeed in no time.
You trained in the USA for a month. How was the experience for you?
There, I really trained properly. It was completely different from my usual workout. I got motivated to train harder and it was much more effective. Increasing your speed in the water even by a second, especially in a 50-meter distance, is a huge improvement.
You recently took part in the Asian Swimming Championships held in Japan. Can you tell us about that?
Personally, I think I did pretty well at the latest Asian Swimming Championships. I finished the 50-meter freestyle event in 28:40 seconds at the Summer Olympics. This time, I was able to prove that it wasn’t just luck by finishing the same distance in 28:42 seconds. The Asian champions usually finish the course in 26 seconds. I can reach their level if I continue to train systematically.
…I want to hear the Mongolian national anthem and watch the Mongolian flag rise as I stand on the Olympic podium. I want to promote Mongolia on the world stage. This is my biggest ambition right now…
You were able to break your personal record at the State Swimming Championships. How were you able to do that? Did you change your training and workout?
I have since intensified my training routine. I started lifting heavier weights that are five to 10 kg heavier. My swimming workouts have become more challenging too.
Does age impact the achievements of swimmers? Most swimmers competing in the Olympics are aged over 20 or nearing 30. You’re only 16, right?
Of course, your skills and experience increase as you age. But my body build is similar to the builds of swimmers participating in world reputable competitions and so is my height. There are swimmers slightly taller or shorter than me so it doesn’t mean that I’m not good enough just because I’m young. The only thing I need is a standard environment for training. I’m still young. I have plenty of time to train harder, get better and succeed as an athlete. My biggest target now is the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Many people place high expectations on me. I will not let them down. As I feel much more pressure and responsibility, I will train harder.
Do you think you can improve your speed to 26 seconds by training in Mongolia? Do you think intensifying your usual training session is enough to achieve this or do you need to do something else?
You mustn’t be too focused on improving your personal record. No matter how you think, systematic training is important. I plan to train while studying abroad. I will finish middle school next year. I want to prepare for the next Olympics overseas. Foreigners usually study during the day and train at night. I want to follow this kind of schedule.
At present, the best competitive swimmers are from the USA, China and Japan. After speaking with my parents and instructor, we agreed that it’s best for me to go to Japan. I plan to go to Japan and train for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics there.
You won the State Swimming Championships, held in Erdenet. What did you think of your opponents? Did you see any strong rivals?
Yes, I won the State Swimming Championships. The championships was held in four age groups. Many children compete in the preliminary round and only five compete in the finals. The girl who swam right beside me finished in the exact time I did, which was 27:76 seconds. This happens very rarely. This means that there are other Mongolian girls who are at my level. Anyone can quickly improve their skills if they start training systematically in standard pools.
Sadly, I injured my wrist when I reached the wall at the State Swimming Championships. At the time, my hand was immobilized but I had to swim in the final. It was an important event for me, and I had to secure my spot in the 50-meter freestyle. I endured the pain and finished 27:46 seconds on the clock, setting a new national record and coming in first place. The following day, I was supposed to compete in the 100-meter backstroke, but that evening, my hand started swelling and I was very scared. My doctor said that I had already injured the extensor tendons of my hand. It was quite a serious injury, yet I kept swimming and even participated in the championships without knowing. All I thought was that I had to win since I represented my country at the Olympics. Had I not injured my wrist, I probably would have finished much quicker than 27:46 seconds in the final.
Most foreign swimmers test their strength in various events. Although you mostly compete in the 50-meter freestyle, is it possible for you to try out other events?
Swimmers train in every swimming style and events. There are four competitive swimming types, which are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Your muscles develop properly and evenly if you train in all four types. You will not improve much if you do only one. I became a sports master in the 100-meter backstroke, but I compete in the 50-meter freestyle event in competitions.
It’s better to compete in different swimming events, but you have to earn the right to participate in them at international competitions. You must be able to finish within a certain amount of time to qualify for competitions. That’s what makes it so difficult to compete in multiple events. In a country where swimming hasn’t developed well, you have no choice but to concentrate on one particular event. That’s why, I’m striving to excel in the 50-meter freestyle event.
A lot of Mongolian athletes join national teams of other countries. Have you received a proposal to represent another country?
The Buryats asked me to join their team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I declined. My parents were against it too. I swim only for Mongolia. I will fulfill my goal even if people don’t support me and my parents have to cover all my costs.
What’s you biggest goal right now?
That would be to succeed in the next Olympics. I want to hear the Mongolian national anthem and watch the Mongolian flag rise as I stand on the Olympic podium. I want to promote Mongolia on the world stage. This is my biggest ambition right now.