Alumni Interview: Hans Yoong Wei Shen, National Fencer
We spoke to National Fencer, Hans Yoong Wei Shen recently and learned that not only he is a national athlete, but a student pursuing Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, United States of America. Read Hans Yoong’s interview below and learn how Hans Yoong balances his student life and his incredible journey as a National Fencer:
“A famous basketball player, LeBron James once shared that we should never be afraid of failure as it is the way to success. Growing up, especially students, they are constantly unaware Growing up as a student athlete, failure and success was part of my everyday schooling experience but my passion did not stop at fencing - I also have passion and love for Science and STEM-related programmes!
It started with a strong passion and interest in Sciences when I was in Sri KDU Secondary School when I recalled taking triple science heading into my last year. I knew then that I wanted to pursue engineering during my higher education years. My favourite subject was definitely Physics, because I am generally a curious person so by learning how the world around me works helps satisfy my curiosity! When I found a remote internship opportunity on LinkedIn during 2019 at IMPACTA Lab, it was exactly when COVID-19 had just cancelled my freshman semester early. During this experience, I collaborated with numerous interns and developed business model strategies on a new start-up called “Nonsense Robotics” with an aim provide STEM education opportunities to unprivileged kids using live streaming platforms and free educational videos from keynote speakers and leaders.
I grew up being aware and emotionally mature and I had to learn when to push myself and when to stop in order to achieve the best outcome in everything I do. Undoubtedly, growing up as a student athlete has taught me a lot of perseverance, mainly when it came to facing losses. I get discouraged easily as one of my biggest weaknesses is losing but I did have my fair share of achievements in my journey as a National Fencer such as winning 2nd place a the Zonal Olympic Qualifier 2021, NCAA champion for two years in a row (2021 & 2022) and ACC champion for 3 consecutive years! I have competed in several international competitions before this, such as World Fencing Championships, and Asian Fencing Championships and these were merely my attempts at obtaining great results that could potentially attract college recruiters from the States. But when I compare my journey to other unfortunate students, I am truly blessed to have the support and guidance of my family, teachers, and peers. I have Mrs. Margaret Rafee to thank who has endorsed many of my fencing competitions that I was able to miss lessons but still catch up on my work at the end of the day! She made being a student athlete possible by providing me room to grow academically and in sports.
Since my many adventures and tournaments, I was scouted by a top fencing college in the United States and was finally recruited as class of 2023 at the University of Notre Dame. I am glad to say that since, I have competed in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournaments and have travelled internationally for these tournaments in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics. However, it was unfortunate that just last year, I suffered a heart-breaking loss where I was one match away from qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics; this has motivated my own self to continue fencing until Paris Olympics 2024. I believe that fencing as a sport has truly given me the chance to travel and meet all sorts of interesting people. It definitely taught me many valuable lessons that has morphed me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for what fencing has brought into my life. Although COVID-19 had unexpectedly ended my academic year early and disrupted much of my fencing career plans, thankfully, the internet has a huge pool of educational resources that helped me prepare and stay engaged with my higher education. Additionally, there are many world class fencing clubs in the US so I was able to continue to hone my skills as the world went into lockdown, and that was helpful for me.
Besides being resilient and disciplined, I believed that having great time management and organizational skills are equally as important. A huge lesson I treasure and keep dear to me is that every single person should be nice to every person they encounter or cross paths with, because you will never know how and when they might help you in the future. Being kind goes a long way.”