An unexpected national record in an event for which he has not done much training of late has given Quah Zheng Wen extra confidence.
The 21-year-old swimmer clocked 2min 00.45sec in the men's 200m backstroke heats at the Neo Garden 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships yesterday, breaking the 2:00.55 he set when the last SEA Games were hosted here in 2015.
For someone who has recently been spending more time fine-tuning his butterfly stroke and who has not tapered for the meet, a personal best in the event was not anticipated, even though he is still expected to shoulder the responsibility of winning it come August at the SEA Games.
Quah, who moved to the United States in January to study and train at the University of California, Berkeley, has also been clocking more time swimming in short-course yards than in the long-course metres format.
"I honestly wasn't aiming for a record," he told The Sunday Times yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. "I felt pretty good during my warm-up... (and) felt like I could have gone faster.
"I was thinking of a 1:59. But I came out with a best time so I'm pretty happy with that."
He was then rested for the evening session, and did not feature in the final.
Quah, who is bound for the prestigious world championships next month, will not be swimming the 200m backstroke in Budapest. He is pencilled in for the 50m, 100m and 200m fly as well as the 50m and 100m back.
But his showing yesterday comes as a shot in the arm both in terms of where he stands physically, as well as his responsibilities come the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. He is slated to defend his golds in the 50m, 100m and 200m back events at the biennial Games.
He said: "Looking at how I swam the 200m (back) this morning, it shows that I have the fitness to do pretty well in the 200m, even in a not very rested state.
"I don't really swim the backstroke outside of the SEA Games all that much, so just knowing that I can throw out a time like that without really resting or tapering and also not swimming that much backstroke beforehand, is pretty reassuring."
Beyond a good result that culminated in a new national mark, National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan gave his charge credit for having become an athlete who is now more conscious of what he wants out of his training.
Said Tan: "I think the one thing that has been evident for me (since Quah left for the States) is his mindset and a change in the way he approaches his training.
"He's a bit more disciplined and focused on certain aspects that he knows he can work on. He's more self-aware now.
"Today's swim is a good indicator of where his endurance fitness is... to come out of a morning swim with a personal best and on no rest, is good."
Other national swimmers posted a handful of notable results on the penultimate day of the meet, with Faith Elizabeth Khoo bettering her under-14 mark in the 200m back.
She clocked 2:20.83 to lower the 2:20.85 she set at last year's edition.
Pang Sheng Jun posted a second meet record in as many nights, clocking 3:56.41 in the 400m freestyle. It smashed his previous mark of 3:58.73 set in 2014.
Breaststroke specialist Roanne Ho, who will be hoping to retain her 50m title at the SEA Games in August, clocked 31.66sec to eclipse her 2015 record of 31.90sec. The 25-year-old had claimed the 2015 gold in a Games record of 31.45sec.
Indonesia's Indra Gunawan, meanwhile, sounded a warning to potential challengers in the 50m breaststroke. The 2015 champion touched home first in 28.21sec - faster than his 28.27sec SEA Games gold timing. Singapore's Lionel Khoo was second with 28.46sec.