Quah: Self-belief is important
US-based swimmer wins silver medal in 200-yard fly to cap impressive NCAA debut
He took a big risk earlier this year, moving to the United States to train and study, despite not knowing if he would be cleared to compete in collegiate competitions.
It took nearly two months for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to give swimmer Quah Zheng Wen the green light to swim for the University of California, Berkeley, and he qualified for the national championships at the last minute earlier this month.
Call it a gamble or a leap of faith, the move has paid off handsomely for the 2012 and 2016 Olympian, who clinched a silver medal in the men's 200-yard butterfly on the last day of the Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Quah clocked 1min 38.83sec to finish second behind University of Texas' Jack Conger, who rewrote NCAA, American and US Open records with his 1:37.35 swim.
Quah is now the third-fastest swimmer ever in that event, behind Conger and Singapore Singapore teammate Joseph Schooling (1:37.97).
Reflecting on his debut NCAA meet, Quah said: "I've been told that this is the craziest meet ever, and it's great to experience it first-hand.
"It is a pretty incredible experience. I am very grateful for the team at Cal (University of California, Berkeley) that helped me through the whole process, and got me eligible just in time.
"Being here and able to race against some of the best swimmers in the nation, and beating some of them is an incredible feeling.
"It is important to believe in yourself. If you want to do something, you need to give your 100 per cent.
"You've got to take risks, and the results may not always be guaranteed, but at least you gave it a shot."
Schooling, on the other hand, had a mixed meet at the Iupui Natatorium.
The 21-year-old helped UT win the national championship for a third year in a row by bagging four relay titles and a first-ever bronze in the 50-yard freestyle.
But the Olympic 100m fly champion relinquished both his 100-yard and 200-yard fly titles - he won both events in the last two years - at this meet.
Schooling finished second in the 100 fly with 43.75sec, while University of Florida's Caeleb Dressel won the event in 43.58, a new record at the NCAA, American and US Open levels.
The Singaporean was placed 37th after he clocked 1:45.47 in the 200 fly heats, and did not progress to the final yesterday morning.
While he has been struggling with fever and stomach flu since Friday night, he refused to blame his performances on his physical condition.
Schooling said: "Caeleb swam an amazing time (in the 100 fly), (even) if I was healthy, there was no guarantee I would have beaten him... I am not going to give any excuses or take that away from him."
“If you want to do something, you need to give your 100 per cent.”Quah Zheng Wen
He added that the meet was "disappointing by my standards" and vowed to pick up the slack next year.
National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan was happy with both Singaporeans' performances.
On Quah, Tan said: "We never doubted that he would do well at the NCAAs; we knew that he would thrive in such a competitive environment... and to have another Singaporean doing well at that level is amazing."
He added that it is "tough" for any swimmer to race while battling sickness, and backed Schooling to bounce back for the World Championships in Hungary in July.
Tan said: "He's such a seasoned swimmer and he will be eager to race again.
"He is going to work hard, and he is going to do well."