Quah Zheng Wen books his ticket to Tokyo 2020
Quah meets Olympic qualifying mark with 53.79sec record swim in 100m back
Smashing the water with his left hand and flexing his biceps with the right, Quah Zheng Wen became the fourth Singaporean to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics after clocking 53.79 seconds to win the 100m backstroke at the SEA Games yesterday.
By his own admission, it was not even an event the 23-year-old was focusing on or targeting an Olympic spot for.
Quah's time at the New Clark City Aquatics Center was below the Olympic "A" qualifying mark of 53.85, making him only the second Singaporean - after Rio 2016 gold medallist Joseph Schooling - to qualify for sport's pinnacle via the biennial Games.
Quah's effort - a SEA Games and national record - left Vietnam's second-placed Paul Le Nguyen (54.98) and bronze medallist I Gede Siman Sudartawa (55.68) of Indonesia in his wake.
Speaking after a four-gold haul on the first day of the swimming programme in the Philippines, National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan said: "The (Olympic) A cut for Zheng Wen is fantastic and speaks a lot about the hard work he has been putting in over at (the University of California, Berkeley).
"We're just focusing on the medals here, the 'A' cuts will be a bonus. It's definitely on the back of their mind, but they are really, really focused towards trying to do their best and achieving that gold medal for Singapore."
Meanwhile, Quah - who competed in the 100m and 200m butterfly at Rio 2016 - made it clear that despite his 100m back success, he was targeting other Olympic events where he would not just be "a participant".
He said: "I definitely think it is a relief in the sense that I don't have to worry about actually making it any more, but at the same time, it wasn't really the event that I was looking at.
"I'm not looking to be a participant in the next Olympics again, I want to go for events where I know I can make an impact in.
"Perhaps the 100m back might eventually be that but, as of right now, it's not something I was training for, really.
"So, I'm just going to put that behind me.
"Sure, I'm going to Tokyo, but I want to go to Tokyo and do something, and I think I can have a better chance of that in my other events."
Quah also helped himself to another gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay, alongside Schooling, Jonathan Tan and Darren Chua.
Their 7min 17.88sec time was a new meet record, with Vietnam securing silver in 7:21.51 and Malaysia rounding off the podium in 7:27.55.
SET THE STANDARD
Schooling said Quah's Olympic breakthrough had set the standard for his compatriots.
Said the 24-year-old: "The goal is also to qualify for the Olympics at this meet and Zheng did a great job qualifying for the 100m back, he got a huge elephant off his back.
"Now, it's time for the rest of us to do the same.
"He started off great and that gave us more inspiration to swim harder for this relay."
But it was not all about Quah yesterday.
His sisters Ting Wen (100m freestyle) and Jing Wen (200m butterfly) plundered Singapore's two other golds of the night as the nation's first family of swimming all set Games records in individual races for the first time.