Darren regains confidence

Pressure of beating Ang's mark got to him but self-belief is back after year away in England

Fresh from a one-year stint abroad, Darren Lim is re-energised and raring to clock personal bests in the 50m and 100m free.
Fresh from a one-year stint abroad, Darren Lim is re-energised and raring to clock personal bests in the 50m and 100m free.PHOTO: SINGAPORE SWIMMING ASSOCIATION

The path towards making history is never easy. Often, it exacts a toll on the pursuer.

National swimmer Darren Lim had shot to prominence in 2013 when the then 14-year-old became the first Singaporean in 30 years to go below the 23sec barrier in the 50m freestyle.

In no time, he was tipped to break Ang Peng Siong's national record of 22.69sec - set way back in 1982. With all eyes on him, however, the burden became suffocating, and his form and confidence suffered.

Now back in the fold after spending a year in England and training at the Plymouth Leander Swimming Club under top British coach Jon Rudd, Darren believes that the time away from the public eye has helped him regain his self-belief.

More crucially, Ang's long-standing record has been broken by swim star Joseph Schooling, who clocked 22.47 at June's SEA Games.


  • Singapore's 22-member squad for the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships

    BOYS: Chua Wei Feng, Darren Chua, Donovan Lee, Darren Lim, Dylan Koo, Francis Fong, Samuel Khoo, Malcolm Low, Kevin Ong, Teong Tzen Wen.

    GIRLS: Chan Zi Yi, Chloe Wang, Christie May Chue, Hoong En Qi, Kathlyn Laiu, Natasha Ong, Quah Jing Wen, Hannah Quek, Tan Lee Shuen, Tan Jing-E, Nicholle Toh, Rachel Marjorie Tseng.

"It was a relief to see someone else do it and not have to deal with everyone else's expectations any more," Darren, 16, told The Sunday Times yesterday.

"I can now focus on swimming for myself and just trying to beat my PBs (personal bests)."

Lowering his times of 22.73 (50m free) and 50.62 (100m free) at this month's Fina World Junior Swimming Championships will go a long way to his other main goal, earning a spot at next year's Rio Olympics.

The 'A' qualifying times - at 22.27 and 48.99 respectively - are by no means easy to achieve.

However, Darren, who trains alongside Commonwealth Games 50m free and butterfly champion Ben Proud, is undeterred.

"My technique has improved, I'm a lot stronger and my lung capacity has also increased," he said.

Nowadays, he no longer needs to take a breath to complete one lap, an important step in shaving off precious time in the sprints.

Darren is part of the Republic's 22-strong team for the biennial 5th World Junior Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from Aug 25-30. It is the first time the meet will be held in South-east Asia.

National assistant coach Gary Tan will take charge of the squad and oversaw yesterday's opening centralised training session.

While local supporters saw Singapore claim a record 23 gold medals at the SEA Games, he said that targets will be vastly different for the youth meet.

It will see about 800 of the world's finest teen swimmers - aged from 14 to 18 - from more than 100 countries.

Powerhouses Britain and Australia will send some of their brightest talents to compete.

Tan expects a stiff contest for his charges in the individual events.

"They're going to face some world-class swimmers so making the semi-finals would be considered a very good achievement.

"But this is an important stepping stone for our kids in the long term, which would be the 2020 Olympics and beyond," he said.

At 15, Christie May Chue already has a SEA Games gold with the women's 4x200m team in June but the CHIJ Katong Convent student notes that the level of competition will be much higher.

The 2013 edition in Dubai, for instance, featured the likes of Lithuania's Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte and future Commonwealth Games gold medallists James Guy and Mack Horton.

Said Christie, who will swim in at least six events: "We all want to do our best.

"It's a really exciting competition for us and, hopefully, we can get the crowd to support us like they did at the SEA Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'DARREN REGAINS CONFIDENCE'. Subscribe