“I hold a lot of trophies and a lot of medals from swimming competitions. I was filmed for a TV show and was praised by many people for my ability. But as glorious as they may seem, these are not really the things that make me most proud. I take most pride in having the privilege to swim in the water every day.”
Sok Vorleak is just 17 years old. But her passion for swimming goes far, far beyond her young mind.
Vorleak has dedicated her whole life to swimming. Ever since she first learned how to swim when she was a child, she has never stopped swimming. It is her ultimate dream to be a swimming champion in international competitions, and be a swimming coach to other aspiring swimmers.
“Every time I swim, I swim hard; I swim with all my effort because I know along the line, I am not swimming alone. I am chased and competed by many others who are equally good. I have to use all my strength to dive in and push forward so that I can touch the edge of the pool first – the symbol of sweet victory.”
Every sport requires endless practices; same goes with swimming. In order to be a great swimmer, Vorleak needs to achieve the art of consistency, endurance and concentration. And not too many people have strong commitment to master these.
“Swimming needs consistency, just like how we live our lives. No matter what happens, we need to move forward. Even though we sometimes feel tired and fearful, we should not stop because if you stop, that would mean you’re accepting defeat. So endure the exhaustion and fear. Embrace them and use them to fuel your determination. You just have to keep fighting forward,” says Vorleak, who is now a Grade 12 student at Preah Yuknthor High School.
Vorleak is currently a member of Khmer Swimming Federation. She has participated in several national swimming competitions and has represented Cambodia in Asean competitions in the last few years.
But unlike most swimmers who were naturally born for the water, Vorleak’s journey started differently.
“There was a time when I almost got drowned. I couldn’t get out of the water and my lungs almost gave up as I craved for air desperately. My body fought to stay afloat, but my mind struggled to stay calm. I can still clearly remember it.” Vorleak was nine when it happened.
With the help of her father, who is also a swimmer, Vorleak managed to get into the water again despite fears and hesitation.
“If I let my fear win that time, I may not have gone back to the water and become the swimmer that I am today. Luckily, I didn’t stop. I remember so clearly my father’s words: If you lose today, it doesn’t mean you’ll lose tomorrow. His words have always been my reminder when I face challenges and setbacks.
“Swimming is not just a sport that I do for competition with other people just to win the title, prize and trophy. Swimming has taught me a lot of lessons about life and morality. For instance, every time I face failure in life, swimming has motivated me in a way that I have to keep moving forward, just like how I push the water and dive deep to grab what I dream of becoming in the future.”
The serenity of the water and the silence it offers at the bottom is, for Vorleak, a source of healing.
“Reaching this phase of adult life, every day I bump into new things that make or break my soul. Things are tough. But at the end of the day, there is nothing more calming than the moment I submerge my body into the water. In an instant, my mind clears up, my body relaxes and all my pain goes away.”