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How do sports influence work life? Discover Elys’s story, free-diver

Published on December 20, 2023

3 minutes

As 2024 will be a year of sports for Air Liquide, we are dedicated to showcasing the transformative power of sports in fostering professional development, through the stories of employees who have cultivated valuable skills thanks to their engagement in various sporting activities. The first portrait introduces Elys Lai, Sales Support Executive and free-diver, who tells us how free-diving helped unlock newfound potential and confidence.

How do you become a proactive problem-solver? According to Elys Lai, Sales Support Executive at Calgaz in Singapore, it all starts with a deep breath.

A long-time employee starting at Calgaz (a division of Air Liquide specializing in calibration gas) in 2008, Elys Lai is a recipient of the Long Service Award, and in charge of handling customers’ sales enquiries for Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region. Involving service provider management, finance and administration, Elys’ role proves to be both fulfilling and challenging: “My job has evolved a lot in the time I have worked at Calgaz'', explains Elys. “Day to day, I work with various companies in different countries, adapting to very diverse requirements. I look forward to learning more, continuing to support our customers as well as my colleagues.”

Not content with only professional challenges, in 2018 Elys set herself a more physical task. “During holidays in Phuket, Thailand, I went snorkeling with friends. I love the ocean, but at that time, I was extraordinarily nervous and afraid, unable to enjoy myself”, confides Elys. “The fear was so strong that I knew I had to do something about it. I started by taking a scuba-diving course, giving me the opportunity to get more comfortable in the ocean and discover my surroundings. The problem is, scuba divers, with the air bottles they use, blow bubbles which disturb marine fauna. I wanted more interaction with marine life with the minimum of impact, and that is when I discovered free-diving, where you dive without any equipment, just holding one long breath.” 

That was the start of a new passion, and Elys has gone from strength to strength in her free-diving career. Swimming up to 200 meters underwater in a pool, and going 80 meters deep in open waters, Elys has won 19 national awards from freediving pool and depth competitions. It is only a start for this sea enthusiast, who has now set her sights on wreck-diving, to reclaim a connection with history, and add a new dimension to her enduring love of the ocean: “In the water all you see is deep blue sea. It is amazing. It gives a new perspective, how human life is so small – and yet, through training, if you trust yourself, you can achieve anything.”

This same dynamic has fueled Elys’s work life, giving her new confidence in her abilities: “This was the greatest lesson I learnt through free-diving”, she says. “I used to be a ‘problem avoider’, procrastinating or sidestepping things that I found too difficult. And I slowly changed to being a problem solver – just like when I train, holding my breath underwater. My method? Put in the effort to understand more about my strengths and my areas for improvement. From there, it becomes possible to acknowledge myself and start improving. Do some training, make some changes, learn. Understand yourself first, then move on to a better self.”

By applying this, everyone can nurture confidence and can develop personally and professionally, as Elys did!

Picture credits:

©uglydiving & ©tohxingjie

©freedive_superhome & ©underwaterspace_freedive

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