HANOI - Unleashing a mighty roar as he hoisted himself on the ropes, Maximillian Ang’s joy at winning his first individual gold at the SEA Games on Tuesday (May 17) was pretty evident.
His victory in the men’s 200m breaststroke in a meet and national record time of 2min 11.93sec was a culmination of years of hard work and it was also a historic first for Singapore.
Just days ago, he had been beaten by the same rival, Vietnam’s Pham Tam Bao, in the 100m breaststroke, but it was Ang who triumphed this time in a day of breakthroughs for Singapore.
Compatriot Gan Ching Hwee also won the women’s 400m freestyle, a title that Singapore’s Joscelin Yeo last claimed in 1995.
Still in disbelief after the race, Ang, 21, said: “I still can’t believe I’ve won the gold, and broken both the national record and the Games record.
“The race went pretty well, I got off to a fast start and the rest was easy for me. I’ve been training so hard for this event and it finally paid off. The gold medal means so much to me and I’ll never ever forget this experience.”
Gan, whose 400m free gold was her third of the Games, said: “Throughout the race I was just focusing on my execution. I’ve been talking to my coach because yesterday’s race (women’s 200m free) didn’t go quite as expected in terms of timing so I really tried to go for it today. I’m quite pleased with the result.”
But a day of breakthroughs for Singapore was also one of disappointment, which saw the Republic’s stranglehold on the women’s 50m butterfly and men’s 4x200m freestyle relay titles ending.
Thailand’s Jenjira Srisaard stormed home in the 50m fly in 26.53sec to beat Singapore’s two-time defending champion Quah Ting Wen (26.88) and sister Jing Wen (26.98) – ending the Republic’s 11-year winning streak in the one-lap race.
But the biggest surprise of the evening came in the men’s 4x200m free relay, as the Singaporean quartet of Jonathan Tan, Glen Lim, Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen (7:21.49) were soundly beaten by Vietnam (meet record 7:16.31) and Malaysia (7:19.75). Singapore have won gold in the every edition of the Games since 2005.
“We went out there, did our best but didn’t really come together this time. It’s a long meet – day four and people are tired. The other team swam better, props to them,” said Quah, who yesterday also reclaimed his men’s 50m backstroke title that he last won in 2015.
Schooling added: “It was definitely my leg that let the team down for sure and I’m very disappointed with that but at the end of the day it’s a team effort and to get on the podium is still something.”
National head coach Gary Tan noted that there was still room for improvement, but vowed to reclaim the title in Cambodia next year.
He said: “We have three out of four boys in this relay who have been going through national service. If going on consistency and training, I think they would definitely match up to the best time.
“I take this as a good reflection piece because when I look at it from this perspective – our guys have a lot of room for improvement as well. Even though it’s a tough pill to swallow, we just have to accept that Vietnam and Malaysia came out better on this one.”