Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, December 12, 2013 – Team Singapore won three gold medals on the opening night of the swimming competition at the 27th Southeast Asian Games.
The race of the night was undoubtedly the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay final. Singapore, boasting three sub 1:51 swimmers in Joseph Schooling, Danny Yeo and Quah Zheng Wen, had arguably the strongest squad on paper, but the Malaysian quartet of Lim Ching Hwang, Kevin Yeap, Daniel Bego and Welson Sim pushed the four-time defending champions all the way. Both teams shattered the Games record of 7 minutes 30.73 seconds set by Singapore in 2009, but the Singaporeans just edged out the Malaysians 7:26.67 to 7:27.32 to set a new national record.
Joseph, who is targeting golds in all six of his events and has a 200m freestyle personal best of 1:49.47, got Singapore out to a fast start in 1:50.86, but it was only good enough for second place behind Indonesia’s fast-improving Fauzi Triady in 1:50.46. Danny Yeo took the lead soon after the changeover and extended it to over three seconds after his excellent 1:50.72 split, the second fastest ever local relay split behind his own 1:50.54.
Pang Sheng Jun plunged in with a healthy lead over the Malaysians who had Daniel Bego on the third leg. Bego, the holder of 10 SEA Games gold medals and the 200m freestyle Games record of 1:49.22, chipped away at the deficit with every stroke, finally overhauling Singapore’s huge lead, out-touching Sheng Jun by 0.01s at the final changeover with his stupendous 1:49.92 split.
Zheng Wen, already a winner of the men’s 400m individual medley earlier in the evening but swimming his third event of the night, was locked in a battle royale with Malaysia’s Sim. Sim had a 0.22s edge with 50m to go, and an upset was on the cards.
But Singapore’s 17-year-old Olympian charged back in the final lap and reclaimed the lead for the final time, breaking the first national mark of the campaign and winning Singapore’s second gold medal of the evening.
Zheng Wen had won the first when he defended his 400m IM title in a time of 4:23.45, edging out Thai Ketin Nuttapong who had led after three of the four form strokes. It was Zheng Wen’s fastest time of the year, and meets the ‘B’ qualifying mark of 4:24.10 for next year’s Commonwealth Games. His time just missed the 10-year-old Games record of 4:23.20 held by Thailand’s Ratapong Srisanont.
Zheng Wen’s national open and under-17 record stands at 4:21.70. Sheng Jun was tied for sixth place in 4:36.22.
The third gold medal of the night was claimed by the quartet of Quah Ting Wen, Lynette Lim, Amanda Lim and Tao Li in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay final. They were never threatened after the first leg, and cruised to victory in a time of 8:13.99. It was slower than the national open and Games records of 8:09.91 and 8:11.75 set in 2009, but is the second fastest since non-textile swimsuits were banned from 2010 onwards.
Ting Wen (56.74s) was pipped to the wall by Philippines’ Jasmine Alkhaldi (56.65s) in the women’s 100m freestyle final, but she will be given a second chance at gold tomorrow. The race will be swum again because a malfunction in the starting device gave the impression that the race had a false start. This caused Thailand’s Sarisa-Ard Jenjira to stop swimming soon after she took off. Amanda finished the race third in 57.21s, but like Ting Wen, was about 0.6 seconds off her year’s best time.
In her second Games outing, Meagan Lim won her first medals when she finished third in both the women’s 200m IM and 200m backstroke finals. She clocked a PB of 2:20.38 for the 200m IM, and swam a 2:21.19, the fastest time by a local swimmer this year, for the 200m backstroke.
Zach Ong won his fourth men’s 200m backstroke medal in as many outings with his bronze-medal showing this evening. A winner in 2009 and runner-up in 2007 and 2011, he clocked a time of 2:05.38, his fastest of the year.
Singapore’s representatives in the pool on Friday, December 13, are Darren Lim, Danny Yeo (men’s 100m freestyle), Christopher Cheong (men’s 100m breaststroke), Joseph Schooling, Pang Sheng Jun (men’s 200m IM), Quah Ting Wen, Amanda Lim (women’s 100m freestyle), Cheryl Lim, Samantha Yeo (women’s 100m breaststroke), Lynette Lim, Rachel Tseng (women’s 400m freestyle), and the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team.
Day 1 results (Finals only)
Women’s 200m IM: Meagan Lim 2:20.38 (Bronze, PB); Samantha Yeo 2:22.51 (6th)
Women’s 200m backstroke: Meagan Lim 2:21.19 (Bronze); Teo Jing Wen 2:22.43 (4th)
Women’s 4x200m freestyle relay: 8:13.99 (Gold) [Quah Ting Wen 2:02.51; Lynette Lim 2:02.79; Amanda Lim 2:04.28; Tao Li 2:04.41)
Men’s 400m IM: Quah Zheng Wen 4:23.45 (Gold); Pang Sheng Jun 4:36.22 (equal 6th)
Men’s 200m backstroke: Zach Ong 2:05.38 (Bronze); Quah Zheng Wen 2:07.28 (4th)
Men’s 4x200m freestyle relay: 7:26.67 (Gold, Games and national open record) [Joseph Schooling 1:50.86; Danny Yeo 1:50.72; Pang Sheng Jun 1:53.17; Quah Zheng Wen 1:51.92)