Swimming: Zachary has big picture in mind

Above: Pang Sheng Jun celebrating his win in the 400m individual medley at the 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships yesterday. Left: Zachary Ian Tan swimming in the 400m individual medley at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Above: Zachary Ian Tan swimming in the 400m individual medley at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI
Above: Pang Sheng Jun celebrating his win in the 400m individual medley at the 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships yesterday. Left: Zachary Ian Tan swimming in the 400m individual medley at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Above: Pang Sheng Jun celebrating his win in the 400m individual medley at the 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships yesterday.ST PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI

New record augurs well for future despite missing out on KL Games

Had the 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships taken place a few days earlier, Zachary Ian Tan's performance last night in the 400m individual medley (IM) would have meant shattering his own Under-14 record set just three months ago.

More significantly, it was a time that met the event's "B" cut for the SEA Games in August - except that the qualifying window closed at the end of April and the ongoing meet is not a selection event.

Still, the plucky teenager - he turned 14 on Wednesday - was not to be discouraged, making it clear that the 4min 30.24sec he clocked yesterday remained something to be encouraged by.

For taking more than five seconds off his time at the Singapore National Age Group Championships (4:35.51) in March - the final selection event for the SEA Games - Zachary's showing was surely something to cheer.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

"I was hoping to drop my time, but I didn't expect it to go down by as much as five seconds. That doesn't usually happen," the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student said at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

"Before the race, I just got myself relaxed. I told myself just to enjoy it, because ultimately, swimming is something that should be enjoyable."

He attributed the big improvement to a greater focus put on his stroke technique during training.

While a debut at the biennial Games in Kuala Lumpur would have been nice, Zachary said he is keeping his eye on the big picture.

He said: "It would've been good if I got this time three months ago, but I'm still young and there's going to be another SEA Games in two years.

"A record is (also) not my focus right now - I'm focusing more on my long-term development. As long as I'm improving and progressing as a swimmer, and know that I'm improving in something, it's good enough for me."

While National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan felt it is a pity Zachary will not be at the Games, he said it by no means discounts the swimmer's calibre.

"It's a bit of a waste, but Zachary's one of those guys with immense potential," said Tan.

NTC swimmers continued to show promise on the second day of the four-day meet yesterday, with Pang Sheng Jun posting 4:23.94 in the men's 400m IM for a new meet record. It eclipsed Quah Zheng Wen's 4:24.83 set in 2013.

Quah Jing Wen clocked yet another personal best, finishing first in 56.47sec in the women's 100m freestyle, ahead of older sister Ting Wen (56.62).

It was a double for the younger Quah, who also beat her more illustrious sibling to the wall on Thursday night in the 200m free.

Said the 17-year-old: "Going into this meet not tapered, there is a lot less stress to do well. I work best without stress but I surprised myself by doing some decent times.

"I think I need to learn from this experience, that I can't put too much stress on myself. I'm pretty happy, especially leading up to the SEA Games, to be doing well at this meet. I'm just really hoping for good things during the SEA Games."

While her swimming pedigree is not in doubt, NTC head coach Tan said the youngest of the Quah siblings also has the benefit of being seen as the "underdog".

He said: "Jing (Wen) has a lot of fire in her. The fact that she's not as established yet (as her siblings are) gives her the opportunity to prove herself.

"I think this is the year she's trying to make the stride and she's doing a good job with it.

"She is swimming fantastic and just needs to keep the motion going. She's got a heavy schedule over the next couple of months... (but) hopefully with proper guidance and a focus on processes, she'll have a good SEA Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Zachary has big picture in mind'. Print Edition | Subscribe