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Training / september 2019

NING ZETAO: BRAVE IS BELIEVING

Who gets to win? Only the brave, says Olympic swimmer Ning Zetao.

One of six creators in the VRCT campaign, Ning choses to represent the word BRAVE. To find out more, we met him at a community swimming pool in Shanghai, not unlike the one where he began his powerful professional career.

There’s a sweet story that, as a child, Ning was so afraid of water he hated having his hair washed in the bath. His parents took him to a swimming pool to help him get over the fear, where a local coach spotted his latent talent. At 14, he joined China’s Navy swimming team. At 22, he was a 6ft 3 superstar adored by China’s social media citizens after his stunning victory in the 2015 World Championships 100m freestyle final.

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The story about the boy frightened about water sounds like a myth – maybe it is, but we love legends about legends. And it neatly illustrates what Ning chooses to represent. Bravery: you can be afraid, but jump in anyway. Ning says: “The word I chose was BRAVE. To me, brave means being your true self. Becoming brave strengthens your will.

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It brings happiness and a positive approach to life. It makes you stronger and more persistent.”

Athletes have to be brave. The better you get, the more pressure to live up to the promise. All eyes are on you, and no coach is as tough as the one inside your head. Ning says that’s not all – there’s also the fear of injury: “An athlete not only has to push themselves and challenge the limits, but bravely face the troublesome injuries, as well as external pressure.”

Courage pays, though, and he gives an example: “During the National Games in 2017, I had a fever just before the men’s 50m freestyle final. Instead of choosing to pull out, I powered on bravely and eventually won the race.”

Becoming brave strengthens your will. It brings happiness and a positive approach to life. It makes you stronger and more persistent.

Ning says: “The word I chose was BRAVE. To me, brave means being your true self. Becoming brave strengthens your will. It brings happiness and a positive approach to life. It makes you stronger and more persistent.”

Athletes have to be brave. The better you get, the more pressure to live up to the promise. All eyes are on you, and no coach is as tough as the one inside your head. Ning says that’s not all – there’s also the fear of injury: “An athlete not only has to push themselves and challenge the limits, but bravely face the troublesome injuries, as well as external pressure.”

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Courage pays, though, and he gives an example: “During the National Games in 2017, I had a fever just before the men’s 50m freestyle final. Instead of choosing to pull out, I powered on bravely and eventually won the race.”

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Maybe the hardest thing about bravery is there’s no payoff until you’ve done whatever challenge you’ve set yourself. But when you win, Ning says, it’s a feeling he can’t begin to describe. He adds: “When I break my records after persistent practice, I understand the importance of being brave and being my true self. It’s hard to describe a moment like that. But you’ll have a whole new perspective on the world.”

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But we have to talk about the flipside, too. Failure. Let’s face it, it’s more common than success. And in a world where almost everything is shared and on show, we worry what other people will think of our low points. Ning says that courage goes hand-in-hand with commitment, and it gives you far more than the fleeting feeling of winning: “Sometimes people can’t see the wood for the trees and fail to recognize your perseverance. But I’m proud of the word, brave, that I stand for because this helps me see the essence of things and understand myself better. Understand yourself and respect the truths.”

Ning says he chooses to represent bravery because it’s given him more than gold medals. He adds: “Becoming brave enables you to step out of your comfort zone, to challenge the impossible. Bravery is the source of my power.”

Becoming brave enables you to step out of your comfort zone, to challenge the impossible.

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We designed the VRCT jacket as a canvas for self-expression, inspired by athletic tradition. Wear it your way, with a custom patch that shows what you stand for. What do you represent?

Training / september 2019