Progressing From SEA Games To Rio

By Tay Yu Shan

Photo Credit: Team Singapore Facebook Page

1. What are you known as in the States? Does the name “Guillaume” mean anything?
That’s a French name. I only use it in France. My dad speaks French. He got his engineering degree in France on a scholarship. I speak a bit of French, enough to introduce myself. My name is pronounced “Gi-Yaum” – in French, double Ls are pronounced as Y.

2. SEA Games Pre-race ritual?
I normally eat the same thing before every race which is, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a sport drink from SiS (Science in Sport) and a banana.

Before the SEA Games I decided to listen to some music, mostly upbeat music such as Maroon 5 songs, ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem and this song from TobyMac called ‘Beyond Me’. There is a particular line in that song which I really like.

3. Did you feel additional pressure to win from the marathon being one of the first events at the SEA Games?
The marathon was on the morning of 7th June. I was the only one from the Singapore team who did not go for the SEA Games Opening Ceremony. It was too close to my race and I wanted to ensure that I was in the optimum state to win my race.

Photo Credit: Mark Teng

4. Mid-way through the race, there was a wrong turn and runners had to turn back. Did that affect your strategy or your frame of mind?
I was slightly annoyed when it happened because my strategy was to hang behind the favourite to win – Eduardo Buenavista from Philipines. He has a 2:18 personal best and 2:24 season best. He is 36 years old but he’s still kicking our butts. He has an incredible reputation built over the years. Even when he was 32 years old he was winning the SEA Games. 

When that happened, I was running comfortably behind Eduardo and one other competitor. Srisung was behind us but because of the wrong turn, he ended up in front of us with a few seconds advantage and we ended up being at the back of the pack all of a sudden, despite leading just a few moments ago. It was slightly annoying at that point of time but I quickly figured that there was no point wasting energy dwelling on it.

On hindsight it was not such a bad thing as I caught up with Ashley and we managed to run together for a little bit.  

Photo Credit: Ghana Segaran

5. The last time we spoke you mentioned that you were going for the national record. Were you disappointed with your marathon timing (2:34:56) at the sea games?
I felt that I could have run a lot faster that day, and I may be speaking for others as well. I could have been in shape to run at least 2:22 – 23 for the marathon but not in Singapore. In Singapore, the conditions would have slowed us down by a few minutes.

However, my aim for this was to get the gold medal and I did it. This was my goal for the SEA Games.

6. You need a 2:17:00 to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016. That is about 9 minutes less than your current Personal Best (PB) of 2:26:01.
9 minutes is not a small jump. I am not going to do that in the next marathon but perhaps in the next two. 2:17:00 is something that I can hit if I train for the next 5 years but given the short time frame it will be a bit of a gamble.

I might take some risks, do some things I might not have done before. I might get injuries along the way – I cannot be conservative going into the race and have to dial in much earlier. At my first marathon (in California) I relaxed for the first 32 km and then ran really fast for the last 10 km. To run 2:17:00 I would have to run as fast as I was going for the last 10 km for the whole race.

The plan is to qualify for the Olympics, and I will do whatever allows me to do that best. As a runner, I do better when I am in a big race. The bigger the race, the louder the crowd and the better the competition, the faster I run. That’s how I have been running in the last couple of years.

Photo Credit: Soh Rui Yong's Facebook Page

7. People often compare you to fellow marathon runners Ashley Liew and Mok Ying Ren. How do you feel about that?
Honestly, whatever helps the sport grow, I am completely fine with it. If someone compares me with Mok, that is something to be excited about. He trains very differently from me. At his peak he was running up to 200 km a week but I only do 140-160 km a week. I was a bit more cautious but he is more gung-ho in terms of training. He is also 3 years older and has been around longer.

I really do not mind the comparison – if anything, it gives us a bit of fire, gives me motivation to outperform each other. It was unfortunate that Mok was not in shape to qualify for the marathon as people might have been eager for a showdown between Mok and myself as we have raced each other in the half-marathon before but not for the marathon. Furthermore, he won the marathon 2 years ago. However, we are on different trajectories so it is difficult for us to race at the same time.

At the end of the day, it helps the sport to grow so I’m happy about that. As athletes, it is important for us to get support to enable us to train full time.

Photo Credit: Soh Rui Yong's Facebook Page

8. What are your plans after graduation?
I am coming back to work for Sport Singapore. Having invested in me, I hope to repay this debt ten-fold by building a group that can train a team of athletes and bring them to greater heights. Through my job, I also hope to make track and field more accessible to the public by helping to recruit and train good coaches. That is just one example.

I hope to use the knowledge gained in my university studies to build and fund something that can allow students to train and produce SEA Games champions on a more regular basis or to aspire to the Asian Games or Commonwealth Games and other bigger competitions.

My dream does not stop the day I hang up my racing shoes.

9. Tell us one pet peeve that you have.
My number one pet peeve is keyboard warriors. By this I mean people who are brave behind their keyboards, who try to give me advice on how to run my marathon when they might not get the full picture. But I do not let that affect me – in fact if I see criticisms about me, I use it as fuel for my fire.

This can affect the minds of athletes, especially those of younger athletes. When people pay attention to you, there is always something to say. But it really does not matter what these people say as it should not affect how fast you run – it should not affect you unless you let it. There will always be people like your team mates, friends, and family members who know you and know your story.


10. Before we conclude the interview, do you have anything else you wish to say?
Yes. I wish to thank my gear sponsors Garmin Singapore, Opticalance, and most of all Nike Singapore for their support throughout my journey to SEA Games gold and beyond.

I am truly grateful and shall continue to aspire to greater heights. 


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