Quah ready to compete with world's best at Rio

All eyes are on Joseph Schooling to make history at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but another Singaporean could also make waves in the pool come August.

National swimming head coach Sergio Lopez believes Quah Zheng Wen has what it takes to rank among the world's best, especially in the men's 200m butterfly event.

In the 100m fly and 100m backstroke, the two other events for which Quah has met the Olympic 'A' qualifying marks, a place in the semi-finals is also not out of reach.

"That's what we will aim for," said Lopez yesterday. "The main event for Zheng Wen is the 200m fly. The other ones I think he can be top 16. He can sneak in there if he has a good meet.

"That would be huge, because you have Joseph Schooling aiming for medals (too)."

Quah, 19, is fresh off a successful campaign at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin, Texas this month where he proved he can compete on the international stage.

Clocking 1min 58.07sec, he won the 200m fly 'A' final, albeit in a field that was missing top fly swimmers like Michael Phelps and team-mate Schooling. While the timing was off his personal best of 1:56.79, it would have earned him a place in the semi-finals at last year's world championships.

His bests in the 100m back (54.03sec) and 100m fly (52.25sec) would have also earned him berths at the semi-finals last year.

The experience of racing among the world's best - learning to deliver despite feeling intimidated - has yielded valuable lessons for Quah.

The swimmer himself says he has come a long way from the doe-eyed 15-year-old who competed at his maiden Olympics in London in 2012.

"Things have really changed for me," he said. "Back then I wasn't thinking about even qualifying for semi-finals or anything like that. It just seemed so unachievable at that point in time.

"At this Olympics some things I'd like to do different is not just go there and do what everyone says - to fully experience (the Games) and what not. I want to go there and make a difference and actually be a solid participant."

May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Quah ready to compete with world's best at Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe