07 December 2019
The target had been set for 19 gold medals to be won from the New Clark City Aquatics Centre and after three days of swimming competition at the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Team Singapore is more than halfway there.
As it stood on Friday (6 Dec), Singapore has won 11 gold medals, 4 silver and 2 bronze to lead the swimming competition at the halfway mark.
All three days have produced unique headlines for the Republic.
Day 1 (4 Dec) saw the Quah siblings carving a unique piece of Singapore sporting history by winning individual gold medals on the same night, all in meet record times. Quah Jing Wen got the ball rolling, defending her women’s 200m butterfly title in 2:10.97. Quah Zheng Wen went even better in the men’s 100m backstroke, winning in 53.79s and cracking the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying time in the process to become the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Quah Zheng Wen has been the star of Team Singapore at this meet (Photo credit: SNOC)
Quah Ting Wen completed the unique treble by lowering SEA Games record for the women’s 100m freestyle time for a second time in a day, stopping the clock at 54.74, 0.01s faster than her heat time.
But it was what Ting Wen said later that resonated, as she lamented not meeting the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying mark.
"It was an okay swim ... (but) I have bigger goals,” she said.
Day 2 (5 Dec) saw younger swimmers coming to the fore, with Joseph Schooling handed a rare defeat by team-mate Teong Tzen Wei in the men’s 50m butterfly.
Schooling (23.61s) was pipped to the top spot by Teong’s 23.55s, and said: “I’m not too disappointed with it, obviously to see my teammate in front of me, I’d rather him ahead of me than anybody else.”
Christie May Chue won the women’s 200m breaststroke in a new Games record of 2:28.71, which as also her personal best and a national record.
Then came 15-year-old Elena Pedersen who won the 50m backstroke in 29.40s, in an outstanding SEA Games debut, handing Vietnam’s swim ace Nguyen Thi Anh Vien a rare defeat.
Day 3 (6 Dec) was highlighted by an amazing duel between Quah Zheng Wen and Joseph Schooling in the men’s 100m butterfly which saw Quah leading for all but the final few metres. Matching strokes from start to finish, it was Schooling who swept home in in 51.84s with Quah a mere 0.03 seconds behind him for silver.
More pleasing than the medals, both managed to crack the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying time of 51.96s, putting to rest months of questions as to whether Schooling would make it to Tokyo 2020 by merit.
15-year-old Elena Pedersen (Centre) is one for the future (Photo credit: SNOC)
Afterwards, Quah said: “We always go to all the big meets together, so just getting up on the blocks next to him is really fine. I think we did a good job pushing each other to get that ‘A’ cut, so I'm really stoked from that and I think we did good.”
Schooling concurred, saying: “I don't think I would have gone as fast as I did if I didn't have this guy next to me.”
He also paid tribute to Zheng Wen, who also won the 200m backstroke to bring his tally to four gold medals and a silver.
“But for him to come up and step out for three events for tonight and do best times and the fastest split, back-to-back in the span of like an hour and 10, that's pretty darn impressive,” Schooling noted.
Teong Tzen Wei ends Joseph Schooling’s 50m fly streak (Photo credit: SNOC)
“So kudos to him, I think yet he's been having the best meet out of all of us so far, and we're just trying to follow his example.”
But Schooling noted the most important thing was for him to have punched that Olympic ticket.
Quah Zheng Wen and Joseph Schooling propel each other into the Olympics (Photo credit: SNOC)
“Now we have a seven-month period, we’ve got some time. And I'm happy to be able to accomplish what I set out to do tonight,” he said.
And for a third night in a row, Singapore dominated the relay, this time winning the 4x100m freestyle in a new SEA Games record time of 3:16.82 with the quartet of Darren Chua, Jonathan Tan, Quah and Schooling, the same four that won the 4x200m on 4 Dec, also in a new meet record time.
The relay quartet of (L-R) Quah Zheng Wen, Jonathan Tan, Joseph Schooling and Darren Chua (Photo credit: SNOC)