Singapore Athletics interviews 2020 SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship recipient and rising middle-distance star, Brandon Norton.
The 18-year-old has been in sublime form, clocking 1:59.74 in his pet event 800m last season. The effort was the second-fastest timing by a Singaporean last year
- Name: Brandon Norton
Date of Birth: 2002
Personal Best(s): 800m: 1min 59.74sec
Event(s): 800m and 1500m
Coach: Remy Gan
Education: Nanyang Primary School, Singapore Sports School
Current School: Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Social media: @brndn.nrtn
Q1) How did you get started in athletics?
- It began from my love of football in primary school, where I enjoyed chasing down other players on the pitch. At the time, I never viewed running with a competitive aspect. I did it just for that innate joyous feeling of running as fast as I could.
Brandon during a race at Hong Kong InterCity Championships 2019
Subsequently, I was convinced by my friends to join the track and field CCA, and I started to run much more, and my interest in athletics grew from there.
Q2) Can you share how your life and training have been impacted by the COVID pandemic?
- Life and training have definitely changed significantly. Classes are now online and training is done mostly within the walls of my own room. Training has been lighter and I am not running as much as before the pandemic. However, I find myself having a lot more time to focus on my studies, which is something I did not have the luxury of having before.
Q3) You were recently awarded the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship. How will this scholarship will help in your athletics journey?
- I believe exposure to different training and competition environments is very important for growth. The scholarship will allow me to pursue opportunities to go overseas for training camps as well as other competitions. The scholarship will give me that extra boost I need to experience athletics beyond Singapore and allow me to grow further as an athlete.
Q4) What is your short- and long-term goals in Athletics?
- For short-term: To be consistent in my training and keep working hard.
Brandon with his teammates at an award ceremony
Long term: Represent Singapore at a major Games such as SEA Games or Asian Games.
Q5) Who are your role models?
- I have always admired one of America’s greatest running legends, Steve Prefontaine. Apart from athletic role models, I also admire my parents. They have demonstrated certain values and virtues that I strive to carry with me throughout my life.
Q6) Tell us more about your coach and his impact on you as an athlete and a person.
- The connection athletes and coaches have is very important for the progression of the athlete. My coach Remy Gan and I have a really strong coach-athlete relationship. As a long-distance runner himself, coach Remy is able to understand the kind of struggles I go through during training.
He has been coaching me for about four years now and knows me very well. Often, during training or competition, he will always provide insightful advice to improve me as a runner and person.
I owe my coach a tremendous amount of gratitude for getting me to where I am as a runner. The way I approach my training sessions and the way I set my mind up when I step on the track before a race has improved drastically through his countless mentoring moments on and off the track.
Q7) What’s your biggest athletics achievement so far?
- My highest honours so far are representing my country, Singapore, in the SEA Youth Championships 2019 and Asian Youth Championships 2019.
Brandon during the 800m final at Asian Youth Athletics Championship 2019 (1:59.74, 5pos)
Q8) What’s your view on the mental aspect of athletics?
- As my coach often emphasised, racing is more a mental game than a physical one. Believing in yourself is the first step every athlete must take if they want to move forward. I have had my fair share of running a race with my head filled with doubt, and I can say from experience that having a clear and relaxed mind can improve anyone’s performance significantly. Not just in athletics but in any sport or activity.
Q9) What do you do as part of your recovery to ensure you are in optimal condition for training and competition?
- I always enjoy a Big Mac and some ice cream after a hard workout. I take recovery seriously and one of my favourite ways to recover is just to soak my legs in really cold water or ice. At the Sports School, we have two swimming pools and, after a track session, I always sit by the edge of the pool to cool my muscles off. Stretching is very important before and after training. My coach always stresses on stretching after training, so that has become a habit for me and my training group.
Q10) Do you have any other passion aside from Athletics?
- Yes, football for sure. Sometimes I’ll play a bit of football after training.
Q11) What profession will you be pursuing when you are older?
- I am currently pursuing a diploma in Business Studies, so I am interested in starting my own company. Hopefully, something relating to athletics.
Q12) How have your parents and Singapore Athletics supported in your athletics journey?
- My parents have been nothing but supportive. They are at almost all my races, and their support and guidance have been paramount in my journey.
Brandon with his parents at his school graduation ceremony
Singapore Athletics has been at the centre of most budding national athletes, mine included. From all the local meets to the overseas championships, SA has provided countless opportunities for me and all athletes to compete and grow.
Q13) Can you share the biggest challenge of your athletics journey and how did you overcome it??
- The most challenging moments would be when I had to deal with reoccurring shin splints at the beginning of the season, when I intended to clock sub 2 minutes for the 800m. The challenge came more from the mental side than the physical side, as the shin splints were constant reminders that I am not in my best form and may not hit my targets.
It is easy for most athletes to just rest their legs when they are injured. However, in order to bounce back stronger, one needs to mentally prepare themselves when they recover. Personally, while I was disappointed to have skipped many training sessions and lose overall fitness, one way I kept my fitness on track was to make a plan for what I wanted to change and do when I fully recover. That way, I was kept motivated and hungry to get back on the track and run hard again. Once I did that, I knew what kind of training and exercises I needed to do to keep myself injury-free.
Q14) What would be your advice to other budding athletes?
- Simply enjoy it. I was told once that whether you are new or experienced in the sport, the most important thing to keep in mind is the enjoyment you get out of the sport. You never know, one day, athletics may become your job, and it is important that you are enjoying what you are doing, so you make the most out of it.
Athletics is a wonderful sport. I like to think that the human body was made for athletics. If any young aspiring runner wants to take athletics seriously, my advice is to try all the events for fun first, before deciding on your pet events.