Quah Ting Wen turns on the style for double gold
22-year-old turns it on twice for double gold; Tao Li storms to her second triumph
Swimmer Quah Ting Wen famously described the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar as one of her worst meets ever, and she was desperate to make up for it here at the 28th SEA Games.
The 22-year-old Singapore swim star went a long way to erasing the bitter memories of two years ago when she powered her way to the women's 100m freestyle gold and then helped Singapore clinch the 4x200m freestyle relay gold with a stunning final leg at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last night.
"I did mention before that it would be nice to have a good meet this year just to kind of erase 2013," said Quah, after her epic night.
"But, to be honest, I've moved past that. 2013 wasn't a good meet, but I learnt a lot from it.
"This year's competition isn't just to erase 2013; it's something by itself and I'm not thinking about Myanmar at all."
Quah's time of 55.93sec in the women's 100m freestyle broke the SEA Games record of 56.03, which she had set in Laos in 2009.
Vietnam's "Iron Lady" Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (56.05) took the silver, while the Philippines' Jasmine Alkhadi (56.10) finished third.
About an hour later, Quah joined teammates Christie Chue, Amanda Lim and Rachel Tseng to win the Republic's sixth and final gold of the night.
The Singapore team were trailing Thailand by more than a body length in the women's 4x200m relay when last-leg swimmer Quah dived into the pool. Showing off her underwater ability, Quah reeled chunks off Thailand's Natthanan Junkrajang at every turn before turning on the afterburners to touch home first.
The quartet's time of 8min 12.95sec edged out runners-up Thailand (8:13.43), with Indonesia (8:30.97) claiming the bronze.
Teammate Lim, 22, revealed Quah had told her she was scared before jumping into the pool.
"I said, 'Ting, you just have to give it your all'. I'm glad she did," said Lim. "I knew she had it in her to pull it off."
Quah was not the only Singapore woman to win gold and break her own record last night.
Tao Li won the women's 50m backstroke event in 28.90, breaking her own Games record of 29.14, which she had set in the heats in the morning.
Compatriot Shana Lim clocked 29.36 to take the silver, while Vietnam's Nguyen settled for bronze with 29.40.
Said Tao: "I don't know how many gold or silver medals I have won but, every time I win, I just feel like my hard work has paid off, and that it's been worth it to go away for training. You won't always get positive talk about you but, tonight, I've proven that I can do it."
Praising the loud partisan crowd whose cheers thundered around the arena, Tao, 25, added: "It was amazing, coming out and hearing the crowd cheer for you.
"I love racing on home ground."
Quah agreed, saying it was home crowd support that kept her going.
"Swimmers usually say they can't hear the crowd cheering but, when I got tired, I could hear the crowd as I was coming out of the turns," she said.
"I could actually see the crowd out of the corner of my eye, so I just tried to hold on and keep going."
Jing En, 17 is a happy swimmer
- TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
South-east Asia (SEA) Games debutante Phee Jing En used the word "happy" four times after winning the women's 100m breaststroke last night.
"I'm very happy," said the Malaysian. "I didn't expect to win, I just tried my best and when I turned and saw the scoreboard, I was super happy."
Jing En (pictured), 17, clocked a personal best with her time of 1min 10.47sec, beating Singapore's Roanne Ho (1:11.78) and Samantha Yeo (1:11.87), who finished second and third, respectively.
She added: "Of course I would have liked to be a little faster, but I'm happy - just happy.
"All the hard work was worth it."
The teenager, who started swimming at the age of eight, only joined Malaysia's national team last year.
She had raised eyebrows at home when she erased the 24-year-old meet record set by Jong Su Ting at Malaysia's national schools swimming championships last year - a feat her more illustrious compatriots, like 2013 SEA Games gold medallist Christina Loh and Olympian Siow Yi Ting could not achieve.
Loh, 20, won both breaststroke races at the last Games in Myanmar but finished fifth in yesterday's event at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Jing En, though, dismissed talk of succeeding her teammate as Malaysia's top female breaststroke champion.
"She's my senior and she's someone I look up to," said Jing En. "She cannot be underestimated."
National coach Paul Birmingham agreed, saying that Loh's year-long stint in the United States to pursue her studies probably affected her performance yesterday.
"In my opinion the US season doesn't fit peaking for competitions like this," said the 40-year-old Australian. "I think it's always a challenge, coming back from the US."
Loh will swim in the 200m breaststroke event on Thursday, and Birmingham added: "She's only 20 years old and she's still got a lot to her.
"Christina will come back stronger."