Swimming: Quah is Berkeley bound

Two-time Olympian Quah Zheng Wen will opt to study at University of California, Berkeley, over NUS, Stanford, and Auburn University.
Two-time Olympian Quah Zheng Wen will opt to study at University of California, Berkeley, over NUS, Stanford, and Auburn University.ST FILE PHOTO

National swimmer, 20, makes key decision over his future ahead of 2020 Tokyo Games

Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen will study and train at a United States collegiate swimming powerhouse in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he is tipped for glory.

The 20-year-old has picked the University of California, Berkeley, to further his studies and will leave for the US tomorrow.

The California Golden Bears are in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Swimming and Diving Championships, the competition's top tier.

They are coached by four-time NCAA Coach of the Year David Durden, who has led them to three team titles in nine seasons.

Quah is awaiting clearance from the NCAA to participate in the swimming championships, which begin in March. There are questions over his amateur status given that he endorses Liberty Insurance.

NCAA rules on amateurism forbid athletes from accepting any financial assistance based on athletics skills or participation.

Quah could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement, Gary Tan, head coach of the national training centre squad said: "I'm very proud of Zheng Wen's achievements and decision to pursue his dream in the US. It is a wonderful opportunity for any student-athlete to not only be able to study in one of the best universities, but also to be able to train with a world-class team.

"I'm confident that if he continues to train hard, whether at home or abroad, he'll be in a great position to achieve his dreams.

"I wish him the very best and he will always have a home with the National Training Centre."

While Quah had secured a place in the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore, he will not be studying medicine in the US, as a bachelor's degree is required.

But the 10-time SEA Games gold medallist is joining a much-vaunted swim team whose line-up includes Ryan Murphy, who won three golds at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The Cal Bears have also been Division 1 runners-up in the last two years, behind the University of Texas, Singapore Olympic champion Joseph Schooling's team.

It is believed Quah was also considering Stanford University and Auburn University, where former national head coach Sergio Lopez is the associate head coach.

Quah showed his potential when he reached two semi-finals at the Rio Games - the 100m and 200m butterfly - in only his second Olympics. He was the third-youngest semi-finalist in the 200m fly and second-youngest semi-finalist in the 100m. After his promising displays, the Ministry of Defence extended his national service deferment until after the Tokyo Games.

Former Singapore swimmer Mark Chay, who also studied and trained in the US with Brigham Young University, said the move would help Quah improve - but only if he can compete in the NCAA.

Chay said: "He is joining a very good swim team with guys who are talented and driven. David Durden is also a fantastic coach who is very knowledgeable and all these will be great for Zheng Wen. But the main concern is for him to not just train, but also compete at that level of intensity on a regular basis. If he can get the full experience, it will certainly be a boost for him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Quah is Berkeley bound'. Print Edition | Subscribe