Quah Zheng Wen: US move was 'the right one'
For someone who is close to his family, swimmer Quah Zheng Wen made a hard decision to move to the US in January this year to train and study at the UC Berkeley.
The decision was made even harder as he wasn't even sure of his eligibility to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association meets, which Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling once described as harder than even the Olympics.
But, Quah, 20, said today (June 3) that he had no regrets in moving to the US.
"Sacrifices come with everything and it just comes down to weighing the pros and cons," said the two-time Olympian at the sidelines of Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) send-off ceremony for its South-east Asia Games-bound athletes at the Singapore Sports Hub.
"I definitely think that going over to that side was a good move on my part, the right one at that point in time and I am really enjoying my time there."
With barely two months of training with the Cal Bears swim team, Quah won a silver in the men's 200-yard fly.
The competitiveness, even among his teammates in training, made the Singaporean push himself every day in training.
"You just have to imagine three guys same age, all doing the same things, similar goals; when you put three individuals like that together, it gives you an environment that is pretty rare anywhere else.
"You have to get used to stepping up and going hard every day because if you slack off even for a second, you have three other guys stepping on top of you."
Quah said returning home to train, ahead of next month's Fina World Championships in Budapest, hadn't been a "major consideration", until a visit from SSA's technical director Sonya Porter in mid-April.
"The first summer away studying abroad would be the most difficult, just because you're not used to being away from home for so long," he said.
"But it wasn't a major consideration Sonya and I talked about that possibility... but it made me realise that I wanted to just train with these guys (national teammates), and to see my family and friends.
"It might lead to inconsistency leading up to the World Championships, but like the move to go away (to the US) I'd have to weigh the pros and cons... and I am glad I came back."
Quah and his sisters Ting Wen and Jing Wen will be among 73 aquatics athletes in five disciplines - swimming, water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and open-water swimming - heading to the SEA Games in August in Kuala Lumpur.
With the exception of open-water swimming, which was not offered in 2015, Singapore's aquatic athletes won 26 golds, 17 silvers and 11 bronzes at the 2015 Games on home ground.
While swimming's SEA Games head coach Gary Tan warned his swimmers to expect a hostile environment in Kuala Lumpur, senior swimmers Amanda Lim and Ting Wen are confident that their team's unity will mitigate the environment.
Lim, 24, said: "We have tried to incorporate values such as team bonding and unity in our everyday training and I think we have grown and bonded a lot.
Ting Wen, also 24, added: "We have swimmers whose ages range from 14 to 27, but everyone interacts fine; we are close and getting closer, and I think this camaraderie in KL... yes, we will face the competition and it (the environment) would be hostile, but at the end of the day, you know you can look back and know that your team are there.
"It's a comforting thing knowing that no matter the outcome, these people have your back."