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SEA Games: Jing Wen ready to rise to the top

No longer comparing herself to her siblings, she wants to be measured against the world

Before the Quahs, there were the Chans, the Oons and the Sngs, families synonymous with swimming and success in Singapore.

Hailing from a household that has produced Olympians and multiple SEA Games gold medallists is never easy, especially as the youngest with a reputation to live up to. But Quah Jing Wen does not shy away from comparisons with her older siblings Ting Wen and Zheng Wen.

To the 16-year-old, she is her own person and at this month's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, she is ready to shed the tag of being the "third Quah swimmer".

She told The Straits Times: "I compared myself to them when I was younger but as I grew up, I realised I didn't want to be (known as) someone's sibling any more. I just want to make a name for myself."

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It was a similar drive that pushed the Chan (Bernard, Alex, Patricia, Roy and Mark), Oon (Jin Teik and Jin Gee) and Sng (Junie and Elaine) children.

Part of her confidence stems from her form. The stopwatch neither overstates nor understates. And the figures tell her she is on the right path.

She was the most bemedalled athlete at last month's Commonwealth Youth Games, bagging five golds and a silver in the Bahamas.

Singapore swimmer Quah Jing Wen, 16, is set to race in eight events in Kuala Lumpur. In her Games debut two years ago, she won a bronze in her only event, the 400m IM.
Singapore swimmer Quah Jing Wen, 16, is set to race in eight events in Kuala Lumpur. In her Games debut two years ago, she won a bronze in her only event, the 400m IM. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

This year, she has set eight personal bests in six events. At June's Singapore National Swimming Championships, she clocked 2min 12.95sec in the 200m butterfly. It was just off Tao Li's national record (2:12.63), set at the 2008 Olympics in a now-banned supersuit.

Both her 100m fly (59.92sec) and 200m fly best times would have won Jing Wen a silver at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. She made her Games debut two years ago and won a bronze in her only event, the 400m individual medley.

"I have a lot more events now," she said with a chuckle. "In 2015, I went into it pretty stressed out. I had one event and one event to make it happen, to do my best.

  • Pressure comes in all shapes and forms for Singapore's athletes at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games this month. For the Games debutant, the defending champion, the young star hoping to seize her chance or the veteran coming back from injury, pressure is something they have to deal with. The Straits Times looks at six individuals ready to leave their mark in Malaysia in our build-up to the 29th SEA Games.

"You need a certain amount of pressure but I just want to go into the meet and improve my times."

She will compete again in the 400m IM, plus the 100m freestyle, 100m and 200m fly and the 200m IM at the National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil. She is likely to be involved in three relays (4x100m and 4x200m free; and 4x100m medley), bringing her tally to eight events, a huge jump from 2015.

To improve her stamina, national training centre head coach Gary Tan has placed her in the middle distance - and not the sprinters - training group. The former cover about 8km during each of the 10 weekly sessions. The latter do about 5km.

She said: "I do a lot more mileage and I feel like my sprints are a lot better than six months ago."

Tan, who has worked with the three Quahs for years, said Jing Wen has become more goal-orientated. He added: "She takes things more seriously now and knows what she wants to accomplish for each session. There's steel to her."

At the National Championships, Jing Wen raced against Ting Wen in the 200m fly final and, for the first time in a competitive race, she touched the wall first.

She played it down and said her 24-year-old sister had raced in another event earlier that evening. Yet the implications are clear; the younger sibling is getting faster.

She refrained from gold-medal predictions for the Games but said: "It would be nice to win a medal in each of my events. If I can hit five PBs in my five events, I'll be pretty happy with that."

Like Ting Wen (University of California, Los Angeles) and 20-year-old Zheng Wen (University of California, Berkeley), she will head to the United States to study and train, joining Texas A&M University after the Games.

The siblings' paths may be similar but Jing Wen wants to forge her own career. She said: "I used to measure my times with my sister's when she was the same age. But nowadays I don't. At some point you have to judge yourself against the rest of the world... That's where I want to have an impact."

Young and restless, this Quah cannot wait to make her own headlines.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'Jing Wen ready to rise to the top'. Print Edition | Subscribe