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Ardi the Ace

The ST Young Athlete of the Year award went to Outram Secondary's Ardi Zulhilmi Mohamed Azman. He is the first swimmer to win the prize, which is now in its third year.” – quoted from the ST article, dated 26/2/2020.

It was a series of many firsts from the young champion. In fact, when asked how he did it, a typical response from an unassuming and almost reticent young man, was “ohh…erm hard work.” But what makes one curious is, what type of “hard work”, and how “hard” was it?

As we delve deeper into the lifestyle of this modest top swimmer, we realise how delicately balanced it is – a constant juggling of studies and swimming training. Despite the rigours of physical and mental endurance, Ardi somehow manages to pursue his academic goals with the same optimism and determination. Yet, there have been some challenges faced by Ardi over the years. Ardi trains twice every Wednesday and Friday, with Sunday being a rest day. Every weekday and Saturday, he goes to the Bukit Merah Lifestyle Sports Lifestyle Centre and after warm-ups, commences his arduous training at 5.30am, for two hours. The hours of training are intense, and fatiguing. He burns calories so fast that he often feels stupendously hungry after his exhausting regime.

His insane schedule begs the paramount question - how does one do this almost impossible mission? 

Ardi’s conscientious ways clue us in and encourage the rest of us who struggle with our daily assignments and commitments. First, he always ensures he hands in work as promptly as he can and checks with his classmates about lessons he has missed. Social media platforms like Whatsapp allow him to have a quick snapshot of what he needs to catch up on and to have quick run-throughs with teachers and classmates. In addition, he does not fail to consult teachers on difficult topics. In 2018, he managed to secure a very creditable B3 for Business Studies, taken as an O level subject.

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This year saw Ardi fired up by his keen desire to defend his national title and to do well in his upcoming O level examination. He experienced a surge of interest in languages and current affairs, and never failed to catch up on personal reading in between his hectic hours of academic and swimming pursuits. 

When asked about the circle of supporters around him, Ardi naturally pointed out his family, which includes an elder and younger brother, both swimmers and from Outram Secondary School. His parents have been the true pillars of support and moral encouragement. He also credits his teachers-in-charge and is quick to acknowledge his classmates’ help in his studies over the years. None of his personal victories would have been possible without the greater involvement of his peers and family.

Moreover, Ardi holds two maxims close to his heart, which undergird his motivational philosophy in his training and life:

“If you’re afraid to fail, you’re probably going to fail.”


“Life doesn’t give us purpose. We give life purpose.”

These same messages currently adorn the class noticeboard of 5/1 and they are a constant reminder to Ardi and his classmates about the significance of perseverance and resilience in the O level year. They take reference from the unmatched fortitude demonstrated by Ardi in the B Division boys 1,500m final at the Schools National Swimming Championships in 2019. Rather than abandoning the race in the middle of an illness, Ardi pressed on despite symptoms and swum to a sensational victory.

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Li Yifan, a fellow swimmer and classmate from 5/1, has this to say about Ardi: “He makes me want to do well so I can be on the same relay team as he is.” Adrian Castillo, of 4/4, another swimmer and schoolmate, echoes similar sentiments about Ardi: “He just makes me want to do so well, to swim so well.” Harry Nguyen of 4/4 states it rather aptly: “Ardi just inspires me.”