Quah ready for Worlds after 'training with the best in the world'
Quah says move to the US has helped him grow as a swimmer, as he gears up for Worlds
By his own admission, it was easy for swimmer Quah Zheng Wen to "just go with the flow" when he was training in Singapore.
The training environment was familiar, with both his siblings Ting Wen and Jing Wen also teammates at the National Training Centre, and the routine was simple.
"My parents were helping me out, and I just don't need to worry about anything. I just train (in the morning), go home, take a nap, go for practice (in the evening), and just go along with everything," the 20-year-old told The New Paper in a recent interview.
To take his swimming to another level, the 2012 and 2016 Olympian made the tough choice in January to move to the United States to study and train at UC Berkeley, even though his eligibility to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association meets was still up in the air at that time.
"You just learn that you'd need to have a very clear focus of what you need to do, especially in my case where I am there almost for the sole purpose of training," he said.
"So if I weren't to swim faster after doing all this, it would be kind of pointless."
Assimilation was tough at times for the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) graduate, but the semester flew by quickly, with the help of his mother who flew to the US with him and stayed there for two weeks to help him settle in.
His teammates, as well as occasional phone calls back home, helped Quah cope with the inevitable pangs of loneliness and homesickness.
But the move paid off for Quah, a semi-finalist in the men's 100m and 200m butterfly at last year's Rio Olympics, at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in March.
After just two months of training with the Cal Bears, whom three-time Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the men's 100m backstroke Ryan Murphy trained and competed with before his recent graduation, Quah clinched a silver in the 200 yard fly in the collegiate meet.
Training with the guys who are the best in the world... keeps you accountable and grounded... You just keep thinking, ‘If these people can do it, why can’t I do it, too?’.Quah Zheng Wen on training with the Cal Bears at UC Berkeley 38 THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2017
"Training with the guys who are the best in the world... keeps you accountable and grounded," said Quah.
"Sometimes, when you are far removed from them, it's hard to imagine what they are doing.
"But, when you are right there, you can see in front of you what needs to be done. You can aspire to have similar goals or training systems to get to where they are at.
"And you just keep thinking, 'If these people can do it, why can't I do it, too?'. You've just got to keep grinding away."
Seeing his teammates in training and competition has also validated Quah's own approach and focus towards swimming at the highest level.
"I always believed that I was training as hard as I could, and I would like to think that it was at a world-class level," he said.
"Going there, there wasn't much of a difference in my work ethic, and it's a good show that I have been doing the right things when I was training here."
But, the move has come at a price - Quah is still trying to regain his "feel" for swimming in long-course metres, after training intensively in short-course yards for the NCAAs.
Long-course metre meets, such as the upcoming Fina World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, are held in 50m pools, whereas the US collegiate meets are held in 25-yard pools, with the latter usually comprising a lot more turns than the former.
Quah said: "I couldn't say for sure if I have really improved all that much for the past semester.
"I think I swam pretty well at the NCAAs, but short-course and long-course swimming are totally different in my opinion.
"Short-course is just a rush; it's about who gets to the wall first and you are kind of short on your stroke. That kind of stroke isn't very workable in long-course meets because you'd get so tired if you continue (on longer laps) with them.
"I am not too sure where I stand as a long-course swimmer right now, although I definitely think I have taken away many good things from going to Cal (UC Berkeley), like the technical details that can also be applied to long-course swimming."
Along with Singapore Swimming Association technical director Sonya Porter, Quah left early this morning for Croatia to link up with Singapore teammate Joseph Schooling for the final stages of their preparations for the World Championships.
Quah will swim in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, as well as the 50m and 100m backstroke events, while Schooling will take on the same three fly events, in addition to the 100m freestyle.
On his goals for Budapest, Quah said: "Definitely I think I have a shot of doing pretty well in the 200m back and the 100m fly.
"I am definitely confident of being in the top 16 in the 100m fly, especially after coming out of Rio as a semi-finalist in the event.
"I hope to come away with some best times, and some pretty fast swims that would progress me further."