SINGAPORE - The countdown to the Tokyo Olympics has begun. But exactly 100 days out and even with dark clouds looming over the event courtesy of Covid-19, national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen is still keeping cool.
In a phone interview with The Straits Times on Wednesday (April 14), the 24-year-old said: "I'm not really thinking about (Tokyo) too much right now, and I'm focused on preparing to the best of my ability.
"I didn't even know we were 100 days out (on Wednesday) until you mentioned it. I'm just focused on other things now, with school and training… and it's good too, to keep me occupied and not stressing or overthinking things," said Quah, who has been based in the United States at the University of California, Berkeley since 2017.
Nevertheless, Quah believes he is making steady progress for the July 23-Aug 8 Games.
At the San Antonio leg of the Pro Swim Series in Texas in March, he won the 200m butterfly, ahead of American stars Tom Shields, Chase Kalisz and 13-gold world champion Caeleb Dressel.
Last weekend at the Mission Viejo leg of the series, Quah also raced in the 100m and 200m fly, and 100m free, finishing third in a new personal best of 49.30sec.
While the freestyle is not his pet event and he rated his performance overall as "nothing spectacular", Quah said he enjoyed travelling and competing with his UC Berkeley teammates again and also gleaned lessons racing alongside Olympic medallists like Kalisz and Nathan Adrian.
Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) technical director Sonya Porter noted that the Mission Viejo meet was another "opportunity to keep refining (Quah's) routine in preparation for Tokyo".
Agreeing, Quah added: "It's hard to put into words, because it's more about experiencing things while racing events. It's not (technical) like I have to move an elbow in some way, it's more of a racing mode kind of thing."
He is still in the midst of working out his plans leading up to Tokyo with Porter and SSA, but noted that "consistency is key" and he was looking to stay and train in the US as long as possible.
He has already taken his first dose of the Moderna vaccine and is scheduled for his second on Thursday.
Said Quah: "The priority (in Tokyo) will still be safety, so even though I'm vaccinated I'll still be very mindful because I know it's not 100 per cent (effective).
"But it's very nice to know at the back of my mind, I'm vaccinated and I can focus on competing. It gives me some comfort and a peace of mind."
The Tokyo Games will be Quah's third, after his maiden outing in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. In Brazil, he raced in the 100m backstroke, 100m and 200m fly, qualifying for the semi-finals in both butterfly events but missing the cut for the finals.