SINGAPORE - After three days of racing, pressure started to build for Ashley Lim as her chances of earning a place at the Dec 16-21 Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) began to diminish.
She had not made the cut in the five events that she had swum at the 9th Singapore National Swimming Championships (Short Course Metres) and the women's 400m individual medley on Saturday (Nov 27) was her last chance to seal a ticket to Abu Dhabi.
The 16-year-old was a bundle of nerves before her final race at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, but to her relief, she clocked 4min 45.86sec to meet the 'B' cut and qualify for the World Championships. In the process, she also bettered her previous national record of 4:47.13 that was set two years ago.
The 16-year-old said: "I'm feeling very happy. It's been a while since I've swum such a great race and I'm really thankful to my parents, coaches and everyone who has supported me.
"There was a bit of stress, but I told myself to put in my best effort."
Her breakthrough comes after a tough two years that were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, Ashley, who just graduated from Methodist Girls' School, is looking forward to her first outing at the World Championships.
She said: "I'll be focusing on my turns because I know that's my weakness and in short-course (meets), turns are very important.
"I'm just excited to race a big event again and I've also never been to Abu Dhabi."
Pang Sheng Jun (men's 400m IM), Quah Jing Wen (women's 100m free) and Mikkel Lee (men's 100m free) also qualified for the World Championships after meeting the 'B' cuts in their respective events on Saturday.
While he felt that his performance was decent, Lee said that there are certain aspects of his swim that he will be working on before the World Championships.
The 18-year-old said: "Execution-wise, what was lacking was the discipline off the walls and there are a lot of minor things that are a bit rusty that I'll have to work on before I start racing with the big guys.
"I'm really looking forward to it now I've officially gotten my spot. We've been racing with familiar faces so it'd be great to see where we stand among other swimmers.
"Next year will be a busy year, so this is the first step of a long season ahead."
The qualifying meet for the World Championships ends on Sunday.