SEA Games: S'pore fin swimmers happy to be competing again after almost 20 years

Singapore's Lucas Chew (left) and Lim Yao Xiang (right), who made his debut in the sport in Hanoi 19 years ago. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

HANOI - It was a sight to behold for spectators at the My Dinh Water Sports Palace in Hanoi on Saturday (May 21).

Sitting on the starting blocks at the swimming pool, competitors were putting on their snorkels and fins, which looked like they belonged in the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. 

Once the buzzer sounded, the swimmers launched themselves off the blocks and glided seamlessly through the water.

The locals clearly enjoyed the unique spectacle, packing the stands and cheering loudly as they lapped up the action on the first day of the fin-swimming competition at the SEA Games. 

The sport is making a return to the biennial Games after 11 years. It also featured the last time the Games were held in Hanoi in 2003.

Among the fin swimmers yesterday were Singapore’s contingent of seven, including Lim Yao Xiang, who made his debut in the sport in Hanoi 19 years ago.

Then, they went home with one gold, two silvers and four bronzes. Lim, a former national water polo player with three SEA Games titles, won a gold and bronze.

The 39-year-old said: “It brings back the memories, it’s come one full circle. 
“I could not plan for it to happen because who knew 20 years later I would be able to do it.”

With his vast experience as an elite athlete, Lim is playing more of a mentor’s role in Vietnam this time, helping the rest of the team – who are all making their Games debut – deal with the pressures of competition.

Yesterday, Lim finished last out of eight in the men’s 100m surface after clocking 43.18 seconds, while compatriot Lucas Chew was seventh in 42.45sec.

Singapore’s Bernice Ting and Rayen Ong both set national records in the women’s 100m surface and men’s 100m bi-fins respectively.

Ting was sixth after clocking 44.52sec and teammate Jamie Ang was last out of eight in 45.88sec. Ong touched the wall in 45.88sec to finish seventh out of eight in men’s event.

Singapore's Lim Yao Xiang in action during the men's 100m surface, on May 21, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Ting, 20, said: “I’m really happy that I broke my personal best. 

“I was just focusing on what I had to do and not change anything when I race, especially on the blocks when everyone was cheering and I got nervous.

“I used to be in competitive swimming and it’s totally different – the crowd, the environment, everybody around me.”

Ong, who is also a competitive swimmer, hopes they can continue building on this experience to grow the sport in Singapore.

The 22-year-old said: “I feel that there are a lot more things to discover and with this SEA Games, it’ll be a very big step for us to see the huge difference between us and other countries.”

Vietnam topped the sport’s medal tally with five gold, four silver and two bronze medals, while Indonesia and Thailand were second and third respectively with 2-2-1 and 0-1-3. The fin swimming action continues on Sunday.

Singapore's Bernice Ting (centre) in action during the women's 100m surface, on May 21, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The 22-year-old said: "We have the foundation there and there is a lot more ground for us to cover in terms of getting used to the fins. I feel that there are a lot more things to discover and with this SEA Games, it'll be a very big step for us to see the huge difference between us and other countries, so we know the next steps to take for future Games."

Vietnam rewarded their home supporters on Saturday as the hosts topped the day's medal tally with five gold, four silver and two bronze medals, while Indonesia and Thailand were second and third respectively with 2-2-1 and 0-1-3. The finswimming action continues today with Singapore's athletes competing in the men's and women's surface 50m heats, women's surface 800m heats and the mixed 4x100m bi-fins heats.

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