Singapore could be sending its strongest-ever men's 4x100m freestyle relay team to this year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, following the fine results at the China Life 48th Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships.
Darren Lim and Danny Yeo were first and second in the 100m freestyle at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday, posting 49.94sec and 50.08sec respectively.
Darren, 19, had earlier clocked 49.50sec in yesterday morning's heats.
Their timings, which easily beat the SEA Games 'A' qualifying mark of 50.60sec, left National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan hopeful that Singapore could close the gap between Japan and China at next year's Asian Games in Indonesia.
Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling holds the national 100m free record with 48.27sec, while Quah Zheng Wen's time in the same event is 49.73sec.
The quartet of Yeo, Clement Lim, Schooling and Quah clocked 3min 19.59sec to win the 2015 SEA Games gold.
Japan and China were sixth (3:15.04) and seventh (3:15.41) respectively at the 2015 Fina World Championships, while Singapore (Quah, Yeo, Pang Sheng Jun and Lionel Khoo) posted 3:27.01 there.
Japan was the only Asian country to reach the men's 4x100m freestyle final at last year's Olympics, clocking 3:14.48 to finish eighth.
But Tan told The Sunday Times: "I'd like to think we can hit 3:15 at next year's Asian Games, and give the Asian powerhouses a good fight.
"I'm confident they can achieve the timing if they put their heads together as a team, and (Schooling and Quah) come in with fire, knowing that these two guys can step it up...They'll be excited to race."
For now, however, Tan's focus is on the August 19-31 SEA Games. "I think this is the fastest assembly of swimmers coming through to the SEA Games," he said.
"We're waiting on a couple of the other guys overseas to post times... what you'll see at the SEA Games will hopefully be a good gold medal performance. If we can get these guys to work together, (we could) post a fast enough time such that we'll give our Asian counterparts a big surprise come 2018."
Yeo, whose 50.08sec effort yesterday improved on his previous personal best of 50.25sec, credited his result to gymming and a change in training. The 27-year-old added: "It's worked well for me, so I'm going to keep fine-tuning stuff here and there before the SEA Games. I think (my timing) bodes well for our relay team."
Roanne Ho also met the SEA Games 'A' qualifying mark of 32.58sec for the 50m breaststroke. The 24-year-old, who won gold in the same event at the 2015 SEA Games, clocked 32.02sec in the heats. She later won the final in 31.90sec.