Quah with his gold medal from the 100m Backstroke - Photo Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters
The first night of swimming action at a sold-out OCBC Aquatic Centre provided plenty to cheer for local fans as Team Singapore collected two golds, two silver and two bronze medals with records falling along the way.
All eyes were on Quah Zheng Wen who had set himself an ambitious target of 12 gold medals for this SEA Games and while he started with ‘only’ a silver in the 200 metres Freestyle, he bounced back in spectacular style to win the 100 metres Backstroke.
In the Freestyle, Quah was narrowly beaten at the touch, finishing an agonising 0.21sec behind Vietnam's Hoang Quy Phuoc whose winning time was one minute 48.96 seconds.
Quah’s time of one minute 49.17 seconds was however a new national record, breaking Joseph Schooling’s record of 1:49.47, set two years ago.
The disappointment of missing out so narrowly on a gold medal might have led some competitors to struggle to find their confidence and drive for a second swim in the same night but Quah, who will compete in nine individual and three team events, showed his character as well as his technical and physical ability as he powered to victory in the 100 metres Backstroke.
A time of 54.51 seconds secured him the gold medal and also broke the SEA Games record by more than a second.
Quah trailed in second place at the turn but spotting Indonesia's I Gede Siman Sudartawa ahead of him he found the extra burst of pace needed to finish the clear winner by more than a second.
“When I turned at the first 50 metres, I kind of took a tiny look underwater and saw him right next to me and it fired me up to out-touch him at the wall. I didn’t want a repeat of my first race,” said Quah.
The women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay team defeated defending champions Thailand with their time of 3:46.60, some three seconds ahead of the Thais.
Quah Jing Wen produced a personal best time of 4:59.52 as she picked up bronze in the women’s 400 metres Individual Medley. Team-mate Tan Jing-E finished fifth.
Lionel Khoo and Christopher Cheong took silver and bronze respectively in the men’s 200 metres Breast-stroke which was won by talented Thai Radomyos Matjiur.