Malaysian swimmer Welson qualifies for Olympics
18-year-old is first Malaysian to meet Olympic 'A' timing in 12 years
All eyes were on Singapore's senior swimmers to see if any of them can qualify for August's Rio Olympics.
In the end, it was an unheralded swimmer from Malaysia who stole the show.
Sarawak-born Welson Sim was the standout performer on the second day of the senior competition at the Singapura Finance 47th Singapore National Age-Group Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre when he became the first Malaysian swimmer to meet the "A" timing for any event in 12 years.
The 18-year-old touched the wall in 3min 50.33sec in the men's 400m freestyle, just 0.07sec inside the "A" mark.
Two others in the same race - Taiwan's An Ting-yao (3:54.57) and Singapore's Danny Yeo (3:56.10) - made the "B" qualifying timing for Rio.
The last swimmer from north of the Causeway to manage the feat was Alex Lim who qualified for the men's 100m backstroke at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"I felt very good in the water just now, and that gave me confidence (as the race went on)... and I'm very excited to qualify for my first Olympics," said a beaming Sim.
"There are five boys and five girls from Malaysia here, all trying to qualify for the Olympics, and I'm the first one to do it."
Sim is not quite done yet. He will be attempting to make the Olympic "A" time for the 200m free today.
"I'm actually expecting to make the 'A' time for the 200m and the 400m. I managed one today and it has given me more confidence. Now I have one more to go," said Sim whose 200m free time of 1:48.46 clocked at the Luxembourg Euro meet in January is just shy of the "A" mark of 1:47.97.
Sim's feat was feted by Singapore national coach Sergio Lopez.
"(Sim's) done great, I'm very happy for him, and I bet he'd manage it in the 200m, too," said Lopez, who was pleased with the performance of his swimmers yesterday, including that of Yeo, who is showing good progress after recovering from dengue.
"We want South-east Asian swimmers to get better and better so our swimmers don't get complacent," added the Spaniard.
A longstanding Under-14 national record also fell yesterday, with Glen Lim breaking Sng Ju Wei's 22-year-old record in the men's 400m freestyle.
The 13-year-old clocked 4:09.95, beating Sng's time of 4:10.68.
This was Glen's second record at the meet, after he rewrote his own national U-14 record in the 1,500m freestyle on Wednesday.
"It feels like a miracle for me. I'm not very good in this event, I really just wanted to get a personal best," said Glen.
"I wasn't thinking about the record before the event but, yes, I knew the record belonged to Sng Ju Wei, and that's older than I am," he added, chuckling.
The competition ends on Sunday.