Sworn to swimming, married to medals | Sunday Observer

Sworn to swimming, married to medals

Many years back, in the 1990s, a handsome young swimmer shown on TV, swimming from one end to the other, faster than a fish in the SAARC Swimming Pool robbed many young hearts of the fair sex in Sri Lanka. Still maintaining the same stamina, looks and status the `Swimming Hero’ Julian Bolling talked to the Sunday Observer recalling the strokes and styles of his real life.

Donald Julian Lee Bolling was born on June 19, 1966 to Tara and Ralph Bolling as their youngest boy. Jeremy and David were their older sons. “My mom (Tara) was a Bishopian and swam for Sri Lanka in the 1950s. My father was a Josephian and played cricket for the school team. He played rugger for the hill country when he became a planter,” Julian recalls.

Tara, Julian’s mother was the silent yet great inspiration for all three Bolling boys. I (the writer) used the word `silent’ following a revelation by Julian. “Our parents never pushed us for anything; neither studies nor sports. It’s all our choice. If they saw our interest in some field, they supported us. Since mother was a swimming coach, it might have come to us naturally, inspired us even unknowingly,” he says.

“I tried many sports and games during my childhood which was a happy and fun filled one, unlike nowadays children. There was cricket, karate, boxing, athletics, swimming and so on since I was in the Primary of Royal College, Colombo. (All three Bolling boys were Royalists).

Finally, the three of us unanimously decided that water sport was the best,” he says with a smile.

“We enjoyed our childhood; stress free and care free… I just had 6 Fs at the final term test before the O/L exam, but somehow barely got through it,” he grins.

“I tried A/Ls but it was not for me, so I decided to concentrate only on what I like –swimming. All of us were representing the school at National Level and Sri Lanka at the International Level so that there was hardly any time to worry about failures but to be happy about the triumphs,” says the Champ setting a new philosophy for life.

Gold Medalist

When he was 21 years Julian heard the good news about the sports schools in the world. He applied for a few and received an excellent response based on his qualifications as a Gold Medalist at International meets.

The best scholarship was from the Clarion Swimming School in Pennsylvania, USA, so, he accepted it. The four-year degree program in water sports provided him a great opportunity to gain exposure in foreign waters and to have a good training under the world’s best swimming trainers while having lot of fun and joy.

When he returned, he joined his family’s academy of swimming run by his mother and brothers. “While attending to coaching, I tried my luck as a trainee in the banking sector and then as a marketer in a multinational company. But I realised the pool and water was my past, present and future and which I have been enjoying doing. So, I quit everything else and started coaching,” he recalled.

While his brother, David was handling the Bolling Swimming Academy which comprised 32 coaches, Julian established his own swimming academy called the Rainbow Swimming Academy comprising 60 coaches in 2004-2005. His eldest brother who sailed for Sri Lanka was also a swimming coach. “Both my brothers were married (the exception is me) and I am an uncle of two nieces and two nephews who are still schooling or in the University. Unfortunately, my brothers passed away last year; Jeremy died of cancer and David of a heart disease so that I have had to handle both academies now,” he reveals.

Happy to be single

“My nieces, nephews, friends and my students are my family. I had many girlfriends and was a good lover too, though God didn’t want me to ruin one’s life and I was not given the chance to get married. So I’m very happy to be single and to lead a carefree life,” he laughed when asked the reason why a princely Burgher, sporty man like him was still a bachelor. May be his princess is still `sailing’ looking for the destination; his heart. Julian is a non-smoker but a social sipper of beer and wine.

“I start my day early in the morning at 4 am. I try my best to avoid oily food now. Recently, I’ve begun to restrict myself to a healthy and simple diet; fruits for breakfast, salad for lunch and soup for dinner. Swimming has been in my blood and veins. Now, I coach coaches and it is my job. But my pastime is watching rugger and football.

I love the beach, surfing and kite surfing. For that we (a group of friends) have chosen a quiet and a not- very -popular place which is not that much to the South of the country. I don’t want to reveal the location so as to maintain privacy and avoid pollution. I visit there whenever time permits or whenever I feel like it.

I prefer to have a nap after lunch, and a good six-hour regular sleep at night as I usually go to bed around 9.30pm. I socialise and like meeting people. Well, I’m blessed with a lot of close friends of both sexes. Hmm..that’s it about my personal life,” he smiles.

Julian has been a coaching master and has experience covering more than four decades. The veteran maestro has a message: “My parents had zero expectations from us, the children. But it’s very strange and different today. My students say that after every swimming meet, on the way home, they have to listen to the `lectures’ delivered by their parents which consist of their `Great Expectations’ from the children and the dismay they experience instead. Every time, other than the kid who comes first in the meet, the rest may have to tolerate the disappointment of their parents. So, it shows the mentality of today’s adults. This has made children do the sport as a part of their curriculum or another subject of the syllabus making it more stressful.

Manage failure

I don’t know how many kids enjoy whatever sport they do. A `sport’ has to be an activity a child should enjoy and have fun, and should not be another frustrating subject. Sports teach a kid to learn to face both victory and defeat. This develops the personality of the child and strengthens mental stability. More than the triumph a person should be able to manage failure in life. Sports give a good training and experience to face life when one steps into society.

But I feel the real sense of doing sports is fading away due to the parents’ competitive mentality to make their child superior to others. I also see a lot of hatred among sports candidates, and sometimes I have heard that some are going to the length of practising black magic targeting victory. This is absurd and being a Christian, I cannot understand how both teams of the same belief would pray to God asking for victory at the same time vowing `we are the best devotees’. Which team does God have to select then?” he laments.

“There should not be room for hatred, stress and unhappiness in sport. What is the use of doing a sport then?” he asks.

Julian stressed that a sport should help a child to build up three main elements in life – physical stability (by building up his or her stamina and a healthy body), psychological stability (by making him or her a decent and disciplined person) and thirdly, the spiritual stability (this is the most valuable element as it would make a good father or a mother, and a responsible citizen in society).

“Have you seen how ardently kids play computer games, mobile phone games and other Nintendo games? The computer experts who invent them are not fools. All these games are based on some sporting event. Kids love these as they can play them silently without anybody’s involvement or disturbances; especially, from parents.

Whether they win or lose, it’s not a problem. It is fun for them and they just enjoy it, but not knowing the harm it would cause. So, if a kid is given freedom to do the sport he or she enjoys rather than pushing them to compete in it, the world would produce better human beings. I hope this article would help our reader-parents to think differently before it gets too late,” he says.

A few new ideas

For whom it may concern…! Julian suggests a few new ideas for both kids and adults who love sports…. “We play as kids. Those who excel in a particular sport find a place in a team and continue it. But what happens to a less able child who still loves to do that sport? Many coaches if they detect kids who are not excellent, remove them or discourage them doing the sport. But, I suggest that such kid should still get a chance to do what he/she likes. It’s for sheer enjoyment.

In a normal classroom, all sets of children; very bright, average and weak get equal room and status to study. Likewise, why not have the same phenomenon in sports too?” he points out.

Further, Julian said that adults too should have places for sports to either continue their desired sport; or try or learn a sport or a game they had not got a chance to do when they were young and still yearns for it. “Our society still thinks that sports are meant only for youth.

That’s not true. Every city and village should have sports recreation centres so that even adults can learn and practise,” he suggests.

Julian who has been a member of the Sport Councils under almost all the Governments so far, and laments that other than in cricket, no satisfactory level of improvement has taken place in the Sri Lankan sports field. The Government should pay more attention to develop sports in Sri Lanka. We have many good sports personnel.

We must find them and drag them into the limelight. Sportsmen and women should have lifetime insurance and a pension scheme to get the best out of them. Later, most of them become private coaches or PT teachers in schools to support themselves and their families.

For those who don’t have even such an opportunity facing life is really difficult. One should have contacts, paper qualifications and be in a better health condition even to earn as a coach or become a school’s PT Instructor.

So, what would be the future of a Sri Lankan sports person who gets injured amidst his/her training or career, or have less paper qualifications? The Government should have a good, permanent plan for this.

After all, they represent Sri Lanka; hoist the Sri Lankan flag high at international tournaments; and mark Sri Lanka in the world history of sports. So, as a Nation, we should have unity, have a permanent national calendar for annual tournaments and maintain transparency in everything and every sense of sports.