Singapore's men's 4x400m relay team have defended their inclusion in the SEA Games, despite the newly formed quartet not having clocked a qualifying time for the biennial competition.
Their nomination for the Aug 19-30 Kuala Lumpur Games had caused some controversy in the athletics fraternity, the Today newspaper had reported, but the squad said they were thinking long term.
National 400m record-holder Zubin Muncherji admitted the situation was not ideal, but told The Straits Times: "We're also actually looking at (the 2019 SEA Games) in the bigger picture, because I think we have a solid medal chance there."
The 21-year-old Indiana University freshman had just returned from the United States two days ago, and attended yesterday's launch of competition attire for Singapore Athletics (SA) at major games. The event was at the 2XU Performance Centre at Suntec City.
Geography has prevented the squad from training together. Team-mate Ng Chin Hui, 23, studies and trains at the University of Oregon, while Thiruben Thana Rajan, 17, and Dinesh Hulbert Anthony Lawrence, 18, the other two runners on the 4x400m relay squad, are based here.
They will conduct their first session next Saturday, two weeks before the 4x400m race on Aug 26 at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
Ng said the runners' timings this season was a sign that "the potential is there".
Thiruben's 47.91sec effort at last month's World Under-18 Championships was a new national Under-18 record, while Muncherji registered a hand-timed 47.5sec in the US two months ago.
Ng's season-best timing is 48.84sec, while Dinesh's is 48.88sec.
SA technical director Volker Herrmann believes the quartet's participation in KL is correct, as they are "young and promising athletes".
"We believe the SEA Games will offer them a good chance to grow as athletes and be prepared for the 2019 SEA Games and the Asian Games," he said.
The average age of the 4x400m relay squad at the last three SEA Games is above 22, whereas this year's team is just above 19.
The German said the short preparation time was not a major obstacle.
He explained that baton exchange techniques for the 4x400m event are less complicated than the 4x100m relay due to lower running speed and speed of exchange.
Singapore's last Games medal in the men's 4x400m relay was a bronze at the 2011 edition in Palembang. They finished fifth in 2013 and 2015.
The bronze-medal timing for the 2015 Games was 3min 08.48sec, set by Vietnam.
Herrmann believes his charges can clock 3:12, but Muncherji was hopeful that they could break the 43-year national record of 3:10.55 in KL.
"We just want to focus on the timings so medal-wise, we're not expecting anything," he added.
"A medal will be a bonus, but we're going to focus on running our best and clocking a good timing."