Swimming: Quah Zheng Wen not resting on laurels ahead of world championships and SEA Games

National swimmer basking in home comforts, but there'll be no easing up before SEA Games

National swimmer Quah Ting Wen receiving the Singapore flag from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu for the 29th SEA Games, which will be held in KL.
National swimmer Quah Ting Wen receiving the Singapore flag from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu for the 29th SEA Games, which will be held in KL.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

By his own admission, returning to Singapore to prepare for the world championships and the SEA Games - instead of staying in the United States where he is now based - may not be a move most expect.

But as far as national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen is concerned, it was a calculated decision that he is fully comfortable with.

"I think that the first summer away when you're studying abroad is the most difficult, because you're not used to being away for so long," said the 20-year-old, who joined the University of California, Berkeley in January and has been training with the Cal Bears since.

Quah returned to Singapore a fortnight ago and will train here as he prepares for next month's world championships in Hungary as well as the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. He was speaking at yesterday's flag presentation event held by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) for its Aug 19-30 SEA Games-bound athletes.

Being around family, friends and his team-mates was one of the factors that pulled him back, said Quah, who made two semi-finals at the Rio Olympics.

"It might be different and give me that inconsistency in the lead-up to the world championships, but I think like the move to go away (to California), you have to weigh the pros and cons," he said.

Training with a top-notch team like the Cal Bears, who count triple Olympic champion and 100m backstroke world record holder Ryan Murphy among their athletes, means being on your toes all the time, said Quah.

"It becomes that much more competitive," he said.

"That in itself already makes a little bit of difference. It's a culture that you got to get used to - stepping up and going hard every day, because if you slack off for even a second, there are three other guys who will step up and beat you if you're not on top of your game."

He added: "Coming out of 2015, I think we have some pretty big expectations, but I have no doubt... going into KL, we'll do well and do Singapore proud."

The 73 athletes across five disciplines that the SSA is fielding will, as always, be expected to carry much of the gold medal expectations for Team Singapore. The Republic won 26 golds at the last Games on home soil.

The 2011 Palembang edition was the best away showing, with 19 aquatics golds captured.

Star swimmers Quah and Joseph Schooling took on 12 and nine events respectively in 2015, but are expected to shave their events down significantly this time.

Said national training centre head coach Gary Tan: "These guys are going to stay a bit more focused on events they will swim at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games eventually.

"At the end of the day, they also need to be able to spread their events out so they don't tire themselves out, even for the relays."

Quah's older sister Ting Wen, 24, will be competing in her sixth SEA Games. She said: "We're all very proud of what we did in 2015. That said, this is a different year, a different team. People like to compare, looking back at one of our most successful campaigns, (but) we're all very focused on what our goal is in KL.

"We have kids from 14 to 27 but everyone interacts just fine. We're all very close, so yes, we will face a lot of competition and it may be a more hostile environment, but when you can look back at your team, it's a very comforting feeling."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline 'Quah not resting on his laurels'. Print Edition | Subscribe