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Lance Tan Wei Sheng
  • December 1st, 2008

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At the training ground in NUS. Photos provided by Lance

In 2007, top junior sprinter Lance Tan was doing well running and is poised for a SEA Games slot to be held in December, Thailand. However later in the middle of the season, Lance’s world turned upside down when he sustained a season-ending knee injury.

Lance had to have surgery. His first surgery was five days after he sustained his injury, to replace his completely torn ACL and reconstruct it using his hamstring graft. The doctor performed the surgery successfully but they advise him to stay off sports completely.

The advice given didn’t deter him and wasn’t a major setback in Lance’s rehabilitation. What was supposed to be a 6 months recovery process, through grit determination and support, he was on crutches in 6 weeks, started jogging at the 3 month period, was back sprinting after 5 months and clocking personal best 9 months after the surgery.

16 months now since his daunting injury, Lance is well back on his way to more personal best. Lance has showed that for his quest to run again, he learned a valuable lesson to never give up. We’ve an interview with him, entailing the details of his road to recovery.

Name: Lance Tan Wei Sheng
Height: 177cm
Weight: 68kg
Date of Birth: 14 May 1987
Current & Previous Schools:

  • Victoria School
  • Victoria JC
  • NUS

Former & Current Coach:

  • Mr Patrick Zhender
  • Mr Tan Chong Kiat
  • Mr Melvin Tan KB

Personal Best: 49.05s (400m)

Races/Event Timing This Year:

  • All Comers 1: 50.13s
  • All Comers 2: 49.81s
  • SWIFT T&F: 50.25s
  • WINGS INV: 49.05
  • SINGAPORE OPEN: 50.20s
  • IVP 2008: 49.57s
  1. What are you doing now. Tell me more about school. How are you coping. Are the schools making any accommodations for you being a student-athlete that you are

    I’m currently studying Mechanical Enginneering in the National University of Singapore, and boy it’s tough! Work load is pretty heavy and I’m falling behind in work a bit. Exams are in 3 weeks so have to really focus now although it’s difficult as trainings are still on going. I stay in Kent Ridge Hall which saves me a lot of traveling time.

    I think everyone knows it’s not easy being a student-athlete. It’s not like going for a 3 hour class,then you can just come back sit down and start your homework. But after a 3 hour training session, you’re all tired and bummed, and all you really want to do is to have a warm bath, have dinner, and sleep. So mentally and physically it’s tiring, and it helps to study in the library and away from the bed and laptop!

  2. Tell me about your injury. How you sustained it, doctor prognosis, length of recovery. The road to recovery, do share. How long, the process, what you did, etc

    I tore my anterior crucial ligament (ACL) back in June 2007, while playing a friendly game of soccer. Wasn’t pretty. Suffered some menicus tear too so had to remove a small bit of it. I couldn’t walk and the pain was never going away. I think the important thing is to get it treated fast. The next day I went for an MRI scan and my injuries were confirmed. 5 days later, I underwent an operation to remove the torn ligament and reconstruct my ACL using hamstring graft. The operation was a complete success. But the doctors suggested that I shouldn’t do sports anymore. Definitely, I was shocked at his comments. But deep down inside I knew I would come back. And come back I did.

    With that injury, instead of traveling overseas for competitions and the SEA Games, I spent 5 days a week at the physiotherapist at SSC. I was on crutches for about 6 weeks, before I could even walk with a limp. The “normal” length of recovery is 6 months. I started jogging and going for long runs after 3 months. This is because of the intense physiotherapy sessions I was undergoing. However, I still had a huge instability in the injured leg. Physiotherapy sessions are painful because you’ve basically have to re-teach your muscles everything. How to move, how to balance, how to flex. It also included “water running” sessions, where it trains the leg in stamina while minimising risk of further injury.

    Honestly, the biggest pain to me was the fact that I missed all the overseas competition trips which would have definitely given me more exposure and experience, and that I wasn’t going to recover in time for the SEA Games. It quite amazing to think of it that I actually plucked up the courage to do a 350 time trial, clocking a late 43s, just 5 months after operation.

    9 months after surgery, at the first All-Comers meet of 2008, I entered my “comeback” race in the 400m, clocking a new Personal Best.

    I was back. And I think it more than proved to myself and everyone else that I could come back and race again. Many thought I would have thrown in the towel. But on the contrary, the misfortune and disappointment of missing the SEA Games, has made me even more motivated to train harder to qualify for the 2009 edition.

    I am totally grateful for my family in taking care of me during that period. The hospital bill was not cheap and luckily I had sufficient amount of insurance to cover 80% of the cost. I also have to thank my physiotherapist for without her, I wouldn’t know how long i would take to recover.

    I would say, it took me about 14 months for my injury to completely heal. I feel no effects of it now. No muscle imbalance, no restricted range of movement.

  3. What has the injury taught you?

    The injury has made me see clearly who my close friends are. It has made me appreciate them and my family so much more, because they aren’t taking care of you because they have to, but because they love you. It has also taught me to know what I want in life. And that I’m not indestructible. From that day, I sat down and sorted my life out. And I told myself I wasn’t going to just give up like that, but I am going to come back stronger, faster, and to show people that it is not impossible to come back from a horrible injury, and be better.

    On a final note, I believe that I have shown that somethings thought impossible is just a thought. What happens after that is based on what you do, what you want. And if you’re determined enough, you will reach your goal. Even if you don’t, you would have never known unless you tried your best.

  4. How would you rate your season this year. Your most recent competition was the IVP. How was it?

    I’m still waiting for the elusive 48 seconds to come. But other than that, considering the injury I had, it’s been a good season. I’ve consistently clocked personal bests, but my problem now is working on my race tactics. Kinda lost that feeling.

    The recent IVP, I came in 2nd for the 400m. Although the track was wet and it was raining, there was minimal wind, but I got my race plan all wrong by starting too slowly and hence I couldn’t make up lost ground in the end, finishing in 49.5s with some gas still in the tank, hence I was disappointed by my performance. Apart from that, NUS ran well in both relays, establishing new championship records in both. I clocked a 48.8s split for my last leg in the 4x400m relay so that was indeed a happy ending.

    lance-tan-wei-sheng-3.jpg
    Lance running the 4×400 relays at the IVP for NUS

  5. I reckon you’re into offseason now and likelihood a last competition for AUG? How the preparation coming along?

    Yes I’ll be participating at the ASEAN University Games in December. So I can’t go into off season just yet, although I’m incorporated some road cycling into my cross-trainings. It’s just been a week since IVP, so I’m starting a new cycle of trainings in the build up to AUG. However, the imminent arrival of exams will definitely affect training plans a bit.

  6. How did you get started with Track & Field?

    My parents were both Track athletes. My dad was a 100m, 200m sprinter, while my mum was a 200m, 400m sprinter. When Iwas young, my dad would take us to MacRitchie Park. No I didn’t run with him, but I definitely fuelled my interest as a runner. I first participated in running meets in primary school, which carried on until today.

  7. When running 400m, what is your tactics usually? Eg; Do you blast the first 200m real fast or do you hold back. Tell us a little on your running form

    I think a good race tactic is to be pretty even between the first and second 200m. I’m aiming for a 48+s, so It would great if I hit the first 200m at a low 23s. That said, I’m still working out on how to achieve that. I guess with more races, pacing will come more naturally. Unfortunately the local racing calender for us is very sparse, so it’s important to go overseas to race too.

  8. Training wise, what is your routine like? For example; the hours, the type of training, etc. A little insight into your training

    Since university started, I have about 5-7 sessions a week, depending on which cycle we’re on ie)Tapering, Loading etc. each lasting as long as 3 hours. I do 2 gym/plyometric sessions a week, a session for intervals, a session for speed work, a session for speed endurance, the rest varies from long runs, to long cycle, to easy programmes to get recover from the previous day’s workout and prepare for the next day.

  9. Your current training group. Share some info about them and where are you training now. Still at VJ?

    I currently train with Mr Melvin Tan. He coaches the NUS sprint team too. My regular training partners include my competitors and friends Kenneth, Amir, Cheng Wei, Alex, all of which are very involved in the track scene too. It always helps to do intervals with someone. Training groups brings motivation to train and happiness to the team too. Since university started, our training groups meet up about 2 to 3 times a week at NUS on weekdays, and at VJC on Saturdays.

  10. What motivates you to train? What is your long term goal?

    To be the best one day. Realistic targets have to be set. Like in the short term, my goal is to run 48s for 400m in AUG, in the long term, to qualify and represent Singapore in not just the 4x400m relay, but in the individual 400m too. Longest term goal? A low 47 will do nicely. But one step at a time.

  11. What do you think you are lacking and need to focus on now

    Studies are definitely affecting training performances, and vice versa. It’s very difficult to fine a right balance between the two, especially with such a heavy work load course I’m in. But apart from that, life is okay. On the track, I need to work on a lot of things. There’s a lot of room for improvement. More strength, more speed, more endurance.

  12. Where do you see yourself 3-4 years down the road? After graduation. Any hope to continue running still then or perhaps go into something related to running?

    I would love to continue competitive track until the 2013 SEA Games, which I think will be held in Singapore. I’ve a lot of legs still left in me and I’m determined to be a top athlete in the region. A very optimistic goal is to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, or get sent there as a wild-card. Even if I stop running competitively, I will definitely still try to be involved in the track scene, and I might be a coach someday too.

Thank you Lance for this interview

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Posted by Uncle Sha.
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