Story by Koh Yizhe/Red Sports.
OCBC Aquatic Centre, Thursday, June 19, 2014 – On day three of the 2nd South-east Asia Swimming Championships, Singapore finished on the podium in every event as they bagged two gold, three silver and four bronze medals to round up a fantastic day in the pool.
Darren Lim won gold in the 50 metres freestyle in 23.34 seconds, before Danny Yeo headlined the night with his emphatic comeback in the 400m freestyle as he beat Vietnam’s Hoang Quy Phuoc by 0.03 seconds to win gold in 3 minutes 57.06 seconds.
Christopher Cheong clocked a new personal best as he met the Asian Games ‘B’ qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke. His 2:19.70 effort was good enough for the silver medal, and it made him the second fastest ever local swimmer in this event behind Lionel Khoo. Nur Marina Chan had another memorable night as she finished second in 1:01.67 in the 100m butterfly – a new personal best by over a second – before bagging another silver medal in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay. Singapore clocked 8:26.91 in the three-team event.
There were also podium finishes for Stacy Tan in the 50m backstroke, Tan Jing-E in the 400m individual medley, Meagan Lim in the 100m butterfly and Pang Sheng Jun in the 400m freestyle.
“We did extremely well today,” declared Singapore head coach Ian Turner. “I was well pleased with everyone’s performance. There were good swims and lots of medals. Excellent. We’re trying to get everyone to peak at the right time and we’re definitely on track.”
Coach Turner singled out Yeo’s win as the highlight of the evening. Yeo, who was a doubt for the race due to a bout of food poisoning in the afternoon, had to dig deep to overcome Hoang of Vietnam, after trailing for 350m. The 21-year-old Vietnamese, who won the silver medal in the 2013 SEA Games, sprinted to a seemingly-insurmountable lead and was a good two seconds ahead of Yeo at the halfway mark.
However, the Singapore Management University student reeled him in stroke by stroke and eventually caught up with him in the last 50m. Yeo then recorded a 28.57-second final lap to finish 0.03 seconds ahead of his rival.
“My coach told me to dig deep, to give it my all despite the food poisoning and I did just that,” said the 24-year-old, who celebrated in emphatic style by throwing his swimming cap up in the air.
“He won the 200m freestyle and he was faster at the start but I just slowly chipped away at the lead. When I saw myself catching up, every stroke just gave me more hope to catch up with him. It gave me more confidence and especially towards the end, I told myself I could do it. Both of us swam really well.”
When asked how this win lined up with the rest of his victories throughout his swimming career, he said, “Yeah, it’s up there with the rest, given that I came from behind and I am not totally rested. I’m really happy with the win.”
Earlier in the evening, Darren Lim claimed gold in the 50m freestyle. Though the 15-year-old led from start to finish, he was pushed hard by Indonesia’s Fauzi Triadi, the 2013 SEA Games champion in this event, who was tied first with Lim in the heats, both clocking 23.61 seconds. Lim finished in 23.34 in the final, shy of his personal best of 22.73 seconds.
Fauzi eventually finished joint-second with Thailand’s Gavin Alexander Lewis in 23.55 seconds.
“This win means a lot because for the past year, I’ve not been really performing well,” explained Lim. “I gave my all in this race and I was pleasantly surprised that I won as it was really 50-50 between Fauzi and I.”
“I was not gunning for any personal best timing because last year, I was training twice of what I am training this year. To clock such a time is a good start to the season for me,” added the Coleman College student, whose time is the fastest by a Singaporean this year.
Lim and Yeo both return to the pool on the fourth day of competition for the 4x100m freestyle relay before swimming their final individual event on Saturday in the 100m freestyle event.
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