Asean Schools Games: Golds materialise for swimmers Elena Pedersen and Claresa Liau after disqualification drama

Singapore's Elena Pedersen (centre) posing on the podium with Indonesia's Lestari Dewi Novita (left) and Samantha Coronel of the Philippines after she won the 100m backstroke gold at the Asean Schools Games on July 24, 2018.
Singapore's Elena Pedersen (centre) posing on the podium with Indonesia's Lestari Dewi Novita (left) and Samantha Coronel of the Philippines after she won the 100m backstroke gold at the Asean Schools Games on July 24, 2018.ST PHOTO: LESTER WONG

SHAH ALAM, MALAYSIA - Singapore's swimmers preserved their 100 per cent record of winning at least one Asean Schools Games gold on each competition day on Tuesday (July 24), but not before two best friends were put through an emotional disqualification roller-coaster to get their golds.

Elena Pedersen bounced back from being mistakenly disqualified in her morning heats to win the girls' 100m backstroke, while Claresa Liau had to wait two hours to collect her 200m breaststroke gold as Indonesian team officials furiously protested the disqualification of initial winner Azzahra Permatahani.

The two girls study together at Methodist Girls' School, train together at Chinese Swimming Club and now have won golds on the same day together.

But the 100m backstroke gold had seemed all so far away in the morning when the two dreaded letters "DQ" had flashed beside Elena's name on the big screen at the Darul Ehsan Aquatic Centre in Shah Alam.

"I was really shocked because I didn't feel like I had done anything wrong," said the 13-year-old, who started tearing up in distress before the mistake was corrected.

"It was my last chance to break the national U-14 record as I'm turning 14 soon. My heats time (1min 07.14sec) wasn't that good and I really wanted another chance to swim."

Handed back that opportunity, the Secondary 2 student made the most of it by powering home in 1:05.22, bettering Faith Elizabeth Khoo's record of 1:05.26 set two years ago. The record is pending ratification from the Singapore Swimming Association.

For Claresa, the drama began after she had finished her swim in the 200m breaststroke final. The 14-year-old appeared to have settled for a creditable silver behind 2017 SEA Games 400m individual medley silver medallist Azzahra, having eclipsed her previous personal best set in the morning heats with her 2:36.53 time.

But Games officials ruled that Azzahra had not touched the wall with both hands, a decision that triggered sustained protests from the Indonesian team and delayed proceedings with five events to go.

"I am mostly happy because I got a gold which was the goal I set myself before the ASG. My PB before today was 2:39 so I was not expecting to go so much faster today," said Claresa. "But it is quite a shame that Azzahra got disqualified because I had a great race with her and I was already happy even though she touched the wall first."

On the boys' end, Mikkel Lee continued to excel on the ASG stage as he picked up his third gold of the Games with a 24.94sec swim in the 50m butterfly that smashed the previous meet record of 25.48.

The swimmers have accounted for half (five) of Singapore's golds so far at the 10th ASG.

Table tennis player Josh Chua, the hero for the boys' team on Sunday, came up just short in the singles final as he lost a close-fought battle with the Philippines' Jann Mari Nayre13-11, 11-13, 9-11, 9-11.

In netball, hosts Malaysia proved a cut above Singapore, carving out a comprehensive 47-26 win over the Republic in the final.

Singapore are currently fifth in the medal standings with 10 golds, 12 silvers and 13 bronzes as of 9pm. Malaysia top the table with 30 golds, 26 silvers and 25 bronzes.

The final day of competition is Wednesday before the closing ceremony on Thursday.