Following on from the interviews we have had with imperial athlete, we present the following interview we had with the BNOC that is Zhengli Lim, aka ‘Ribbon Guy’. I am quite lucky to have known him from the beginning of my time here at university. I, along with many mechanical engineering students in the years directly above and below me, owe a significant part of our degree success to this man. He spends uncountably numerous hours dedicated to running tutorials, creating tutorial sheet solutions and answering questions from students. On top of this he has also DJ’ed at major London clubs, extensively fundraised for charities and put a smile onto the face of many of us who see him roller blade into university. I share this information so that you can fully grasp the nature of Zhengli and the love that is felt towards him in the Mechanical Engineering Department and throughout the university.
I HAD TO CHASE THE SWAN FOR FOUR HOURS WHILE CALLING WILDLIFE SERVICES
Who are you?
Originally from Malaysia, I accepted an offer to move to a Singapore at the age of 12 for my studies. I went alone, and while it was difficult being away from family at first, I soon grew to enjoy the freedom to live independently. I didn’t do any competitive sports, but I did have a lot of energy which I expended by running up and down the stairs between classes.
What’s your university academic background?
I did my undergrad here in Mechanical with Nuclear Engineering which I quite enjoyed. It was tough, and I kept a record of study notes that I shared with my friends who were also struggling at the time. Together we created an independent group called Mechnet which encourages a culture of collaboration between students so we can get through the degree, to great success! I have chosen to stay on as a PhD student in the same department and I’m now in my second year, studying Thermoacoustics.
What’s your sport background?
I don’t have a background in competitive sports. However, I am naturally attuned for endurance activities due to my low weight and do random sports for the fun of it. I used to run cross-country when I was very young, and then tried out gymnastics, swimming, ice skating, roller blading, skiing, cycling, football, badminton, table tennis and climbing. I wanted to try out multiple activities to see if there was one that I could stick to. I guess I found mine!
How did you come across the idea of starting ribbon?
A part of my personality is chaotic energy, so I’m not joking when I say that I stumbled upon it randomly because I thought it would be funny to try. Last November, my latest hobby was dancing to electronic music. Then the idea came to me that instead of just punching the air with my bare fists I could also hold a ribbon at the same time. My activity is an odd fusion which draws from the elements of Rhythmic Gymnastics, Dance, DJ and Martial Arts (see ‘chaotic energy’ above). I don’t follow any instructions on this; I do exactly what I feel like doing at any given time. When you make an activity your own, the only standards to adhere to are yours!!
I WAS SO HAPPY I RAN OUT AND STARTED DANCING ON THE STREET AND CLEARLY HAVEN’T STOPPED
How do you get the confidence to do what you do in front of strangers and some people you do know?
Confidence doesn’t really drive me; gratitude does. Truth is, I almost didn’t get my PhD offer and I wouldn’t be here in London right now. I thoroughly enjoyed my undergrad here and all the friends I made in this city. So much that I was visibly shaken when people I knew were getting their offers and I was resigned to the idea that I wouldn’t be staying here any longer. But a mere two days before I had to leave the country, the offer came!! I was so happy I ran out and started dancing on the street and clearly haven’t stopped. I guess it’s only when one faces the real threat of losing what they have that they understand what truly matters and what ultimately doesn’t.
How has COVID affected your life?
I intentionally refused to return home for the summer even though my family requested me to (since London’s cases were rising exponentially at the time). This was for their own good, and I still make a firm rule that I refuse to meet anyone over the age of 40 without PPE. My ribbon activities though are entirely unaffected. When you think about it, it’s the perfect social distancing sport! I spent the six months of isolation practicing in Hyde Park, and appeared randomly on the front page of The Times for it. I made friends with many kids, several doggos and a swan that took my ribbon for a swim in the lake. I had to chase that swan for four hours while calling wildlife services. Let’s just say that I’ve had many strange encounters in these odd times; half of them involving birds.
What is the music you listen to while you do it?
I listen to a mix of Pop and Electronic Dance Music. My favourites though are mashups that I create myself with music production software. If you have seen me performing as a DJ, you would know what I’m talking about!