SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Singapore a class above in the pool

Lim seals fifth 50m free title as young swim team tie best-ever Games away tally of 19 golds

Death, taxes and Amanda Lim winning the women's 50m freestyle title at the SEA Games in a new meet record time. Those are the certainties in life it seems.

The 24-year-old maintained her unbeaten record, which started at Laos in 2009, and cemented her status as South-east Asia's fastest woman in the pool with a stirring win in last night's final.

Exploding off the blocks with the fastest reaction time, she powered to victory in 25.41 seconds, lowering the previous Games mark (25.59sec) she set in 2015 in Singapore. Team-mate Quah Ting Wen was second in 25.46sec and Thai Jenjira Srisa-ard third in 25.63sec.

Lim said: "Definitely some pressure and stress before the race, but over the years I've learnt to convert that into motivation."

The Nanyang Technological University sports science and management undergraduate was in search of a spark after missing out on last year's Olympics and feeling her performances had stagnated.

Her personal best of 25.38sec was set at the 2009 Asian Youth Games.


But she felt revived after yesterday's final and said: "This is one of my best swims so far. It has been a long year, ever since not making Rio. I'm glad I gave it my all ."

A source of her renewed enthusiasm has been the appointment of new national head coach Stephan Widmer, who arrived on June 30.

The Australian has worked with top female sprinters like Olympic champions Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper.

He said: "Amanda is someone who has shown over the last eight years resilience against adversity and we want to build on that."

Lim's triumph was preceded by Quah Jing Wen's win in the women's 100m butterfly, which was Singapore's 44th gold in Malaysia and surpassed the country's previous best haul of 43 titles from the 2007 edition in Thailand.




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Crossing that milestone was "insane", said the 16-year-old Jing Wen, who clocked 59.38sec, ahead of Thailand's Kornkarnjana Sapianchai (1min 0.45sec) and older sister Ting Wen (1:00.69).

She added: "But it's also just a number and it'll continue to grow. Singapore has been doing well in the past few years."

The prospects were equally bright for the nation's swim team, who capped a dominant outing in Kuala Lumpur by capturing the men's 4x100m medley relay, the last race of the six-day meet.

It gave Olympic champion Joseph Schooling a perfect six wins from his six events.

The butterfly specialist teamed up with Quah Zheng Wen (backstroke), Lionel Khoo (breaststroke) and Darren Lim (free) to clock a new Games and national record of 3:37.46, eclipsing the old mark of 3:38.25 set by Zheng Wen, Khoo, Schooling and Clement Lim two years ago.

Zheng Wen also had six golds from seven events.

Indonesia (3:40.34) and Vietnam (3:43.09) were second and third.

Schooling, 22, said: "That was a great race by all of us collectively. Solid swims all around."

That made it 19 golds in Kuala Lumpur to tie the previous best away tally from the 1969 and 1971 South-east Asian Peninsular Games.

Jing Wen said: "The younger generation has become a lot faster and I want them to know, size and age doesn't matter and we can compete with the rest of the world."

National training centre head coach Gary Tan was delighted with the new generation.

Besides Jing Wen (five golds), the emergence of the likes of Gan Ching Hwee, 14, Francis Fong, 17, Teong Tzen Wei and Samantha Yeo, both 20, bodes well for the future.

Ten of the 27-strong squad were Games debutants and more than half of this group are 16 or younger.

Tan said: "I saw some of the kids come through as a team and that was one of the most important things for us.

"We predicted 15 golds and we surpassed that and we're definitely pleased about it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore a class above in the pool'. Print Edition | Subscribe