SINGAPORE - National swimmer Lionel Khoo has his eyes set on a second consecutive gold medal in the men's 50m breaststroke at the SEA Games after he met the qualifying mark at the Liberty Insurance 51st Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (SNAG) Major Games Qualifier on Thursday (March 18).
Khoo touched the wall in 28.45sec in the event's final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre to finish first and earn his ticket to the Hanoi Games.
The 25-year-old said: "Looking at my competitors in the last SEA Games and where I am at right now gives me a good sense of where I stand. I'm confident to defend my title.
"Also looking at where I was the same time back in 2019, I was doing about the same times so I should be on track.
"I'm glad to know that I'm getting back in form, especially after a long period out of the water and I'm even more thankful for this opportunity to race.
Khoo, who has won four gold medals at the SEA Games, is also aiming to qualify for the July 23-Aug 8 Tokyo Olympics.
Also making his mark at Thursday's meet was 16-year-old Gabriel Koo, who broke the boys' Under-17 100m backstroke national record.
Gabriel clocked 56.58sec to eclipse Quah Zheng Wen's previous mark of 56.60sec from 2013.
While the record has always been the goal for the Anglo Chinese School (Independent) student, he had not expected to achieve the feat at the SNAG.
Although he had memorised the timing he had to beat, Gabriel did not realise that he had rewritten the record until his coach told him after the race.
"The main goal (for the SNAG) was just to improve my timing and regain my confidence," said Gabriel, who is aiming to qualify for the SEA Games.
"I've been trying my best to hit this timing but I didn't expect to go this fast. This was good for me to see that whatever I've been doing in the past few months has been beneficial and hasn't slowed me down at all."
For Glen Lim, the men's 200m freestyle event helped turn things around for him after a disappointing outing the day before.
The 18-year-old finished first in the 200m free in 1:49.02sec, ahead of Darren Chua (1:50.39) and Jonathan Tan (1:50.50) to meet the Olympic 'B' qualifying mark.
He said: "I feel pretty good. I didn't expect this time because I was really doubting myself at the start of the race.
"This final race is an indicator of where I'm at right now and I think I'll be able to get the results I want in the upcoming events."
Christie Chue and Gan Ching Hwee also qualified for the women's 200m freestyle at the SEA Games with their respective times of 2:01.24sec and 2:01.37sec.
The March 17-21 competition is a qualifying meet for major Games such as the Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games and the Tokyo Olympics.
So far, Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and Quah are the only two swimmers who have met the Olympic 'A' times. The pair booked their spots at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.