The GoGetter Triathlon Squad founder talked to us about his involvement in sports as a youth, how he left the corporate world for the game that he loves and his philosophy as a coach.
Aldrian Yeo is yet another kind of person you want your children to emulate. He’s known exactly what he’s good at, what he is going to do and he always tops them off with great execution. We invited him to come and talk to us about his journey so far and the 35-year-old stripped it all to us.
The youthful Sarawakian isn’t just another athlete and you could tell that when you take a moment to sit down and have a chat with him. He’s a warm guy, the kind of guy that you won’t mind taking advice from. After all, he’s a coach now and the high degree of interpersonal communication he possessed must be built on that.
“You guys should try marathon then,” he joked after we expressed our disbelief of his age. In all seriousness, Aldrian doesn’t look 35 at all. You can tell that he’s in his full fitness just from his physique. It’s a real triathlete physique. We’d imagine that if we’re there as his students, we must have believed everything that comes out of his mouth.
Aldrian like most other athletes started out in school. It was swimming the first sport he caught up with. “Swimming was my first love. You can say that I spent most of my youth doing it.” Hailing from the capital city of Kuching, he remembered being in a group full of promising swimmers.
“As you can see now, Sarawak has always produced top class athletes from the swimming pool. People expect to see the state to fully sweep the honors in every MSSM or SUKMA events. I remember the only states that might be close to us in terms of performance would be the likes of Selangor or Penang. The rest has got some serious catching ups to do. We are not talking only about swimming. We also excel in diving.”
Well he’s got a point, doesn’t he? The Bau-born diving sensation Pandelela Rinong has gone on to become the first female athlete to have won an Olympic medal for Malaysia while in the open water marathon event, fellow stateswoman Heidi Sarah Gan from Kuching has managed to qualify to the Rio Olympics two years ago.
“Personally, I think we excelled due to many factors. First, there are a lot of pools you can find in Kuching so in terms of facilities it is all covered. Secondly, they took coaching quite seriously.
When I was starting out, there were three imported coaches from Europe tasked to teach us the right swimming technique. Not only that these guys were also responsible to train us for competitions.
Of course, their coaching quality was different from local coaches as they are more pragmatic and would encourage us all to have fun while improving.”
While he was studying at the St. Thomas High School in Kuching, Aldrian started to feel the competitive heat. Talented swimmers are everywhere so for him to have the chance to represent the state, he must be ready to give his all in each training session. He realized that a moment of complacency would cost him the place in the state camp.
“Even if it’s a tough task to place yourself in the state team, to be in such a demanding atmosphere was an honor to me. It has done a lot for my confidence and maturity. It taught me perseverance and strengthens me mentally.
All of us competed well and at the same time, we had fun doing that. But like I said, it was really tough. I remember each one of my teammate who was selected for SUKMA for example, would be expected to come home with medals. It was up to that extent.”
He did well to finish his high school and subsequently enrolled to Universiti Malaya – a major university in Malaysia – taking a degree in social science. It was the year 2002 and at that time, the maturing Aldrian Yeo already knew that the switch from swimming to triathlon is looking more and more inevitable.
“I started my first ever triathlon race in 1999 in Kuching. I was 16 at that time. To be honest, it was quite an easy transition for me because swimming was already hard in the beginning. So I went through it all and I thought at that time I have been through the worst. So mentally I was prepared and I remember being quite fit physically too, which is an advantage for me.”
By that time, Aldrian confirmed his love for triathlon already. He cited that the varieties triathlon training offered to him as one of the best parts of it. “It’s rarely monotonous. With all due respect, swimming training can be a little bit too repetitive at times. It’s pool day in day out.
“But for a triathlon, I had the chance to cycle, go to the gym to elevate my game and even try some of the exercises I never thought I’d be doing beforehand. It was new and exciting. At one point, I thought I just needed that perspective. It worked brilliantly and suddenly I’m in love with triathlon the same way I fell for swimming years before.”
Inspirations change people and change is directly proportional to growth. Aldrian said that he drew inspiration during the early stage of his involvement in triathlon from Eugene Chan in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. “It was live on national television and I remember being so stoked about it. He was an absolute beast in the game at that time. He just bossed all these local races and float past everyone else in the ladder,” he said.
From there, he never turned back. He went on to learn more about the tactical aspect of the game. He admitted that in order for him to find form and get better, it was important to be tactically astute. For example, he once ran in the form of a professional cross-country runner just to find himself falling out of the race a little bit later.
“It’s because of my running form. When I picked up the bike and started to cycle, my whole leg was gone because I went too hard with my running. It was tough but at least there’s a takeaway from there.”
Aldrian stayed in the sports for years and years after that. He found himself in the corporate world right after graduating but he didn’t stop there. He would go on to juggle between triathlon and his day job. Up until one day, he realized that without proper coaching, it’s hard for him to bring his game to the next level.
“I was aware of the high cost that could follow up with my decision to take a personal coach with me but I wanted to give it a try. I looked up online and met a Brazilian coach. He was a part of this team at that time. The guy was very knowledgeable, best coach I have ever got without a doubt. Around the same time, I received an offer to join team TIME.”
I enjoyed my time with the team. After three successful years, the founder then decided to go back to his home country and the team eventually went on to shift their focus into developing young talents,” he said in reflection to his time with TIME.
At one point, Aldrian decided to ditch corporate – a field he was in for ten years – for the sport that he loves. He admitted that it wasn’t the easiest of decisions but remained positive about it.
“A lot of people would ask me whether I am confident with my decision. Thing is, I was very confident because I am a very calculated man. I make only the moves that I believe will lift me up in the end. If it’s unclear or vague, maybe I would wait a little longer until things are clearer and better.
I decided to start coaching. It’s a coincidence that in triathlon, most of the beginners’ weakness is swimming. It is my strength. So starting from there, I decided to plan ahead with my program and tried to pursue this as a business. Thankfully, the reception was positive and the next thing I know is I am already doing things that I want to do faster than my initial expectation.”
His days now are filled with coaching the students at Go Getter Triathlon Squad which he founded, coaching his national athlete wife Serena Yang Chen Yin and training himself for his next challenge. “It gets hard at times but it is 10 times better than being in corporate,” he joked.
It is not too much to say that Aldrian is the epitome of a modern-day free man. He works hard for what he wants and isn’t afraid to face challenges in front of him. He stepped out of his comfort zone for the thing he believed; a rare case in the rather ‘fixed’ current world.