HANOI - As Teong Tzen Wei walked away from the mixed zone after completing his post-swim interviews at the Aquatic Sports Palace on Thursday (May 19), a loud bellow could be heard from the locker room.
Inside was the familiar figure of national head coach Gary Tan, waiting to embrace Teong, who had just won the 50m freestyle in a SEA Games and national record of 21.93 seconds, ahead of defending champion and compatriot Jonathan Tan (22.24sec) and Vietnamese Jeremie Loic Nino Luong (22.85).
Not only was Teong the first South-east Asian to go under 22sec, his effort was faster than the 2018 Asian Games winning time of 22.11sec. Furthermore, only four men in Asia have ever swam the event faster than the Singaporean.
Teong, who also broke the Games record to win the 50m butterfly, said: "It feels like miracles do happen. I'd like to thank all the people who've helped me in the past, in my journey to reach this goal. It's a big moment for me, I'll soak it in, move on so I can achieve better things in the future."
Tan added: "When we saw 21.9 it was crazy and amazing to see him get that mark. It's something we were working towards and hoping that Jonathan would get there, but I'm glad someone dipped below that 22... I cannot ask for more."
Teong's win was one of the four golds Singapore bagged on the final day of the competition as the Republic topped the medal table once again with 21 swimming titles. The best showing had come in 2015 and 2019 with 23 golds.
Tan felt the team had exceeded their expectations: "We were quietly working through some numbers and we can either hit 25 or 12, we didn't know what to expectations. We've come on the middle ground of 21, it's a nice number to have so I'm happy with the result."
He also praised the performances of Maximillian Ang, 21, and Letitia Sim, 19. Ang won two golds, including his first individual title in the men's 200m breaststroke, a silver and two bronze.
Sim won the women's 100m breaststroke on Thursday to finish her first Games outing with three gold, a silver and a bronze. Quah Jing Wen also ended on a high, winning the women's 100m butterfly just ahead of her sister Ting Wen.
The siblings then combined with Christie Chue and Gan Ching Hwee to capture the 4x200m free relay, the meet's final event.
Jing Wen, 21, who is Singapore's most bemedalled swimmer at this year's Games with six golds, said: "I personally feel like I'm on the up and up and like the past four years I feel like I've been stagnant and not making any progress.
"I feel like at this meet, I've shown just a little bit of what I am capable of and it's comforting to know that I'm still improving and on my way to achieving my goals."