To be an athlete, it takes some amount of raw talent, competitiveness, and commitment. Edwin Thiang definitely embraces the traits and qualities to become one.
The 23-year-old has been an athlete for most of his teenage years, starting his athletic lifestyle surrounded by multisports since he was as young as seven years old.
Beyond competing at the international level, Edwin also works as a full-time triathlon coach after the completion of his studies. For the bright, up-and-coming young triathlete, his achievement did not come easy. He shared with us what it takes to get where he is today.
Tell us about your background and occupation.
I studied Journalism, Public Relations, and Event Management in university. After completing my studies in the UK, I came back to Malaysia and decided to coach. Now, I am a triathlon coach by profession.
How did you start triathlon?
I started swimming at 7 years old. When I was 8 years old, I was influenced by my dad who is also a triathlete. At the age of 10, I joined my first kids triathlon. My father is the one who brought me into triathlon.
While I was still a competitive swimmer, I occasionally did triathlons. I did competitive swimming until 16 to 17 years old. After that, I decided to stop swimming and focus on triathlon.
How did your triathlon journey begin?
I represented Malaysia for the first time when I was 16 years old. I also participated in Ironkids Phuket Triathlon which used to be an annual event, held in Thanyapura.
At that time, my father guided me along the way, mainly in cycling and running. I had a swimming coach for my swimming.
Later when I was studying in university, I had to juggle my studies and training. My days were pretty hectic, having to cope with assignments and training. In the UK, I did not have hardcore training but merely maintain my fitness. In fact, I did not really have much time to train there. Having maintained my fitness, I did not have to start my training from scratch again upon returning to Malaysia.
What is your strongest and weakest discipline?
Swimming is my strongest discipline as I started swimming as a kid, whereas my weakest discipline is cycling. Naturally, I am not a strong cyclist. Previously, I was not having a proper cycling training program. Most of the time, I was just cycling blindly, without proper guidance.
How did you get into RC Coaching?
RC Coaching was founded by Rupert Chen. For the friendship I have had with Rupert over the years and my passion and interest in triathlon, I naturally and eventually made the decision to become a coach.
I enjoy coaching and helping people, as well as seeing them improve and progress. I studied Event Management, thus the training camps, triathlon clinics, and simulations we organize revolve around what I learned in the past as well.
Also, coaching involves communication. So it revolves around Public Relations.
How is your coaching program?
My coaching program consists of 4 sessions. Swimming session holds on every Monday evening, Wednesday morning, and Friday afternoon. On Thursday evening, it will be a session for swim, bike, and run. Normally, these sessions are conducted at Bukit Jalil Stadium.
What are your biggest accomplishments so far?
I finished 2nd at Port Dickson International Triathlon 2015, sprint distance and came in 3rd at Port Dickson International Triathlon 2017. For now, I am focusing on Sprint and Olympic distance.
What obstacles and setbacks have you faced along the way?
I frequently need to get and take myself to the next level. In Malaysia, there are top triathletes. But when they compete in overseas competitions, the level between Malaysian and other international triathletes can see a massive difference. In order to reach a higher level, I have so much to make better.
What physical challenges have you overcome?
As cycling is my weakest discipline, I have always found myself being pulled back by cycling. I can do well in swimming, but I am always dropped off in cycling. Sometimes, it is tough for me to be in a good position in cycling.
Recently, my cycling has improved quite a lot. In terms of injuries, I was suffered from Achilles Tendonitis because of running. I have been in the process of recovering since last January. I finished third, with almost no training, in the age group 20-24 Male – Short distance at the Powerman Asia Duathlon Championships in Putrajaya early this year.
The current challenge for me now is the recovery of my shin splints and the preparation for the selection of SEA Games which will be held in July.
What do you think about the triathlon community in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, triathlon is definitely growing. More people are starting to recognize and understand triathlon. More people are also taking up the sport and setting it as a challenge for themselves.
Recently, there is an increased number of triathlon events being organized in Malaysia. Due to the low awareness of triathlon among Malaysians, there is a need for the National Triathlon Federation to develop a better structure, program, and system.
It is important to educate young kids about triathlon and introduce them to the sport at a young age. Early education plays a key role in young children’s development.
Having competed in Ironkids, do you think starting triathlon young is an advantage for you among your peers?
Having started swimming at a young age, I have definitely built a better base. Because of my experience, I understand how doing triathlon reacts to my body. I know my weaknesses and strengths well. However, people who have just started triathlons also have advantages because of savvy technology and more advanced training programs.
When I started, I trained blindly without following a proper training program. Nowadays, triathletes are blessed with a number of triathlon clinics, coaches, and teams. So, they can be benefited from these platforms. At the same time, technology is available to complement their training.
What is your nutrition plan?
I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition which is made of 100% natural ingredients. Previously, I did not understand the function and the importance of nutrition. I used to take nutrition for granted. As I comprehended the substance of nutrition, I strongly recommend everyone to take their nutrition plan seriously.
What have you learned about yourself throughout the triathlon journey?
I have learned to be more focused, disciplined, and competent in time management. I always believe in persistence. If you want to excel in certain things, firstly, you must have the passion. Then, you have to put the utmost effort into it. You need to strike the perfect balance between sports and social life.
What advice would you offer first-timers based on your experience?
Firstly, I would like to know whether or not they are really passionate about triathlons. Patience and commitment are key. For first-timers, it is advisable that you start with a short distance.
When you are confident and more competent in doing it, you can prepare and train for longer distance. I would encourage them to join a triathlon team or triathlon coach.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Currently, I’m striving for the selection of 2019 SEA Games.