Positives for Quah amid Rio pressure

Quah Zheng Wen of Singapore reacting after the 100m butterfly heats at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Quah Zheng Wen of Singapore reacting after the 100m butterfly heats at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A couple of personal bests and semi-final appearances will be a source of encouragement for national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen as he plots his next Olympic assault at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 19-year-old thrived in the butterfly events at the Rio Olympics, shaving off time in both the 100m and 200m fly while securing a top-16 ranking as well.

He clocked 1min 56.01sec in the longer event and finished 10th overall. His previous best was 1:56.26.

On Thursday night at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, he had qualified for the 100m fly semi-finals after a PB of 52.08 in the heats - faster than his previous mark of 52.25 - but was disappointed with his 15th-placed finish following a 52.26 effort.

National coach Sergio Lopez had tipped Quah to make the top eight in at least two of his events and break some national records.

Said Quah with a sigh: "It was going pretty well until the 75m (mark) but I couldn't finish.

"I didn't have a good start, messed up my dive a little bit. Just had a bad race, can't be helped."

Curiously, Quah's best times came during the morning heats instead of the night races, in which he succumbed to the pressure-cooker environment of the Games.

It demands the best of you but simultaneously is "not really something a lot of people can train for," he noted.

"You could say it's (lack of) experience but a lot about it is the mental state, how you handle the environment around you.

"It's just different being at the Olympics compared to other meets. It's pretty wild."

What was less fun was his 100m backstroke outing.

He stopped the clock in 54.38sec, 0.35 slower than his best, and finished 22nd when harbouring grander ambitions.

He said: "I think I did pretty well, for the 200m and 100m fly, which wasn't my main event...

"So that's pretty nice. I wish I could have done things a little bit better. But things like that happen and I know I could be a lot better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Positives for Quah amid Rio pressure'. Print Edition | Subscribe