APG2018: Wei Soong completes successful campaign and eyes Tokyo 2020
10 October 2018
There were shades of Joseph Schooling’s breakthrough gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics but this time around, a Singapore swimmer had to contend with the lower spot on the podium while a pair of his opponents shared the top step.
At the Aquatic Centre at the Gelora Bung Karno tonight (10 Oct), Toh Wei Soong gave it his all, setting a personal best time of 1 min 20.21 secs in the men’s 100m backstroke S7 finals. The 20-year-old was the fastest qualifier from the morning heats, also with a personal best then of 1:20.67.
Toh Wei Soong competes in the 100m backstroke, which is not his strongest discipline. Photo: Sport Singapore
But in the race that mattered, he missed out on the gold medal by half a stroke, as Japan’s Daisuke Ejima and Ernie Gawilan of the Philippines both stopped the clock at 1.19.90 to share gold, while Wei Soong had to settle for bronze.
It still meant Wei Soong completed his 3rd Asian Para Games campaign by medalling in every event, making him easily Team Singapore’s best athlete of this meet.
The former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) IB student could afford to be philosophical about not coming away with three race wins.
“I think that was honestly the best race of this meet for me despite not getting the gold this time and missing out on the hat-trick,” he said.
“Most athletes, what keeps us in the game, is not so much the idea of winning but giving our best, competing against people who are stronger, if not as strong as us.
“As I have said many times, we need strong opponents. Without them we can never improve. So I’m really thankful to have such strong and talented swimmers to go against.
The fact he as racing against more established swimmers – Ejima is 32 and Gawilan is 27 – did not escape his attention.
“My opponents are several years older than me, and while some may see that as an advantage on my part, they actually have the edge in experience,” he said.
“So I knew I was in for a tough fight. They’ve done this event for a long time, while it’s not one I’m particularly in love with.
“And so I was surprised and not surprised with the result. Surprised to see them getting a joint gold, but not surprised I didn’t get the gold.
Toh Wei Soong in action at the Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Centre. Photo: Sport Singapore
“One of the things I believe in, and I’ve said this before, is that if you are prepared to win, you have to be prepared to lose as well. And the paradox, you have to have the courage to go into a race and no matter what happens, you’re going to give your best.”
Filipino Gawilan had been on the receiving end in the two previous races which Wei Soong won.
Asked if there is a budding rivalry between them, Wei Soong replied: “I’ve know Ernie for several years now, I raced against him at the ASEAN Para Games. We have mutual respect. I look up to him as a senior and veteran athlete.
“And I’m enthralled that he still has the ability to give me a run for my money. I need him as much as he needs me. We feed off each other and we make each other stronger. As long as he’s in the game, I know that I can improve.”
And that progressive improvement is what Wei Soong needs with his mind firmly focused on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, even as he get’s ready to read Political Science at the National University of Singapore next year.
“This Asian Games has reaffirmed certain theories I have about my ability. It’s a culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work, and on the whole, I’m satisfied with the results, with my approach to these events and the outcomes.
“I don’t think I could have done much more, this has been, as an artist would say, pretty as a picture.”
Women’s 100m Breaststroke SB13: Sophie Soon Jin Wen, 6th, 1:29.73 (new PB)
Women’s 100m Butterfly SB14: Danielle Moy Yan Ting, 8th, 1:16.50
Cheer for Team Singapore during the 2018 Asian Para Games, held in Jakarta from 6 to 13 October. Stay tuned to our Team Singapore Facebook, Instagram and website for exclusive updates and features!
You can also support our athletes through the One Team Singapore Fund. Click here to find out how.