3. Samantha Yeo’s emergence as a medal contender in the breaststroke
While the 16-year-old is peerless in the local scene, her startling times at these championships have put her firmly in medal contention at the SEA Games. Samantha, who owns all three national under-14 breaststroke records in the 50, 100 and 200m, finished the meet with two of the three under-17 equivalents.
She broke Joscelin Yeo’s 1995 100m breaststroke mark of 1:11.37 by slashing nearly 1.4 seconds off her pre-meet personal best, clocking a stunning 1:10.49, and putting Nicolette Teo’s national open mark of 1:10.15 under serious threat.
Samantha then proceeded to lower her 200m breaststroke PB and under-17 record of 2:34.07 by a huge 1.73-second improvement. Her new time of 2:32.34 is 0.38 seconds away from Nicolette’s national open mark.
The 100 and 200m breaststroke titles at the last SEA Games were won by Malaysia’s Siow Yi Ting in times of 1:10.55 and 2:33.67.
These timings, as well as her 2:19.11 PB in the 200m individual medley, place Samantha in a good stead to challenge for top honours in December against familiar foes in Malaysia’s Siow and Christina Loh, as well as Thailand’s Phiangkhwan Pawapotako.
4. SEA Games champions unable to defend their titles
Arren Quek, a surprise men’s 50m freestyle gold medalist at the previous Games in Palembang, will not be present on the starting blocks to defend his title. He finished third in the National Championships final behind Darren Lim (22.87s) and Russell Ong (23.33), with only a maximum of two spots on the squad per event if the qualifying time is met.
Danny Yeo suffered the same fate even though he finished second in the 200m freestyle final and met the qualifying time of 1:52.36. The Games champion clocked 1:50.85 to Quah Zheng Wen’s 1:50.29, and with overseas-based Joseph Schooling’s national record of 1:49.47 at the Charlotte Grand Prix, his nominated qualifying meet, that meant Danny could only be content with a place on the 4x200m freestyle relay squad.
Teo Zhen Ren (1500m freestyle) did not swim at this meet, while Tao Li did not meet the qualifying marks in the 100m backstroke and 200m butterfly, which had zero and one qualifier respectively. However, according to the selection policy, all swimmers have until September 8 to submit times in events that do not have two qualifiers. The Selection Committee may also in its discretion fill any vacant slots in any event with swimmers who have already been selected.
Defending SEA Games winners Joseph (200m butterfly), Zheng Wen (400m IM), Amanda Lim (50m freestyle), Tao Li (100m butterfly) have all made the cut in their respective events.
5. Bright prospects for relay teams
Singapore took home five of the six relay golds on offer at the last Games. The odd one out was the men’s 4x100m medley relay which they were disqualified from after an erroneous changeover. With a dearth in breaststroke talent to match main medley rivals Indonesia, even the presence of the region’s top butterfly swimmer Joseph Schooling may not be sufficient to overhaul the SEA Games record holders, whose superior backstroke and breaststroke legs would probably prove to be too much for Singapore.
Other than that, the times clocked at the National Championships suggest that Team Singapore have the ability to win the remaining lot. The team began the 2011 Games with only Danny and Russell having sub-52 second times in the 100m freestyle during the year. This time, there are already five such swimmers: Danny (50.51), Darren (51.25), Joseph (51.47), Clement (51.57) and Russell (51.71). Danny, Clement (50.68) and Joseph (50.99) are the only local swimmers who have gone below 51 seconds, and Russell has the fastest relay split of all time (50.12).
The men’s 4x200m freestyle team also offer much promise. Joseph’s 1:49.47 national record, along with Zheng Wen’s under-17 mark of 1:50.29 and Danny’s 1:50.85 should ensure the trio will spearhead the task to defend the gold medal. Clement, with a 1:51 split and individual swim to his name, could also be called upon to beat back the challenge from the Malaysians, led by the probable quartet of Lim Ching Hwang, Daniel Bego, Kevin Yeap and Vernon Lee.
In the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, the first six finishers (Ting Wen, Amanda Lim, Mylene Ong, Lynette Lim, Koh Hui Yu and Tao Li) at the Nationals clocked 57.70s and faster, and therefore could prove too strong for perennial rivals Thailand. The core of this group, with the additions of Shan Teo and Marina Chan, should also be able to defend their gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
In the medley relay, Tao Li could be deployed to swim the backstroke leg if Shana Lim is unavailable for the Games. Ting Wen, with her sub-minute butterfly time at the Nationals, could then take Tao Li’s spot in the butterfly and safely leave the task of bringing the team back in the final 100m freestyle leg to one of the many talented 100m freestyle swimmers who have shone at the recent Nationals.