Swimmer with Olympic aspirations took long way to BYU


It was a matter of weeks before he prepared to leave for the U.S. that Rainer Ng, a swimmer from Singapore, found out his dreams of attending BYU had to be put on hold.

“Several years ago we tried to get him admitted to come,” said swim coach John Brooks. “And right before we had the opportunity to get him, it was probably within a week or two of getting him admitted, the military came in and he had to go serve out there for two years.”

Rainer Ng uses his backstroke during a swim meet earlier this season. Photo courtesy Mark Philbrick/ BYU Photo
Rainer Ng uses his backstroke during a swim meet earlier this season. Photo courtesy Mark Philbrick/ BYU Photo

In Singapore, all males are required to serve for a period of two years in the military after they turn 18. Failure to serve could result in up to three years in prison.

Military service is often the kiss of death for Singaporean athletes. Because of the demands on their time, athletes are usually too exhausted to train, and ultimately stop practicing their sports altogether.

But Ng stayed true to his swimming goals, finally conquering all the red tape of NCAA guidelines, military service and university admittance to complete his journey to BYU.

“I was starting to feel like I was never going to be able to come to BYU,” Ng said. “I couldn’t believe it until I got onto campus and met the coach.”

Since getting his foot in the door, Ng has flourished.

Ng has already been named the MPSF/Turbo Male Athlete of the Week after competing in the Intermountain Shootout meet with the team Oct. 16.

Hayden Palmer is a teammate of Ng who recently broke the BYU pool record for the 400 individual medley. Palmer said he takes inspiration from Ng not to rely on talent alone.

“We have a lot of fast people that want to work harder. (Especially) Rainer, he’s killing it,” Palmer said. “He goes so fast, and I’m like, ‘Man, I want to be like Rainer.'”

Ng first started swimming to combat asthma when he was a child. An instructor noticed his talent and recommended Ng pick up competitive swimming. Ng joined up with the local Swimfast aquatic club, and met former BYU athlete David Lim, who was coaching the team. Lim encouraged Ng to look into BYU.

“If I didn’t go into that club, I may not have had those connections to go to BYU,” Ng said.

In 2010, Ng participated in the first youth Olympic Games and won the first-ever youth swimming silver medal for Singapore.

“Nobody was really expecting it from Singapore swimming, especially at the world level,” Ng said. “It was a really good feeling being able to do something for my country. It makes you feel tingly, and everyone is happy.”

After the youth Olympic Games, Ng’s next task was to finish his time in the police force. Ng wasn’t able to train as much as he would have liked during this busy time, but he kept his passion for swimming alive.

“A lot of people say it’s like a mission because you learn a lot of new things and have new experiences, but you wouldn’t want to serve it again,” Rainer said.

With everything at long last in place, Ng now looks to excel both in athletics and academics.

“Coming here and learning about the culture is really interesting. That’s why I really enjoy this place so much,” Ng said. “I’m proud to say I’m from BYU and be a part of this culture, even though I’m not LDS.”

Ng’s major of choice is accounting — one of BYU’s most competitive majors.

“You have to make sacrifices to actually achieve what you want,” he said. “You just have to really focus on what you’re doing and not get distracted.”

In terms of swimming, Ng’s ultimate goal is to represent Singapore in the Olympic Games. In the meantime, he represents both BYU and Singapore in the pool and has the difficult task of managing classes and meets. The month of December presents such a heavy swim schedule for Ng that he planned in advance to finish his coursework and finals early.

“I wish every freshman were that way,” Brooks said. “I wish they could all be proactive.”

Ng has high expectations for himself and is grateful for the opportunity to at last be at BYU.

“I hope to be able to do something for BYU in order to repay the favor,” Ng said. “It was a good feeling coming up here finally. I was really looking forward to it.”

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