Sibling support and synergy
Ting Wen and Zheng Wen look to each other for lift at the Olympics
To represent the Republic at the Olympics is an honour less than 200 Singaporeans have achieved since the country's first outing at London 1948.
Swimmers Quah Ting Wen and Quah Zheng Wen are an even rarer breed, as they are set to become only the seventh set of Singaporean siblings to compete at the same Olympics since two pairs of water polo brothers Tan Eng Liang and Tan Eng Bock, and Alexander and Wiebe Wolters first featured at Melbourne 1956.
"It's just really awesome that we both made it," said 19-year-old Zheng Wen, who made his Olympic debut in London 2012 and has qualified for the 100m backstroke, 100m and 200m butterfly this year.
"We are as close as it can get. I mean, look at our faces. Many people say we have the same one.
"If I have to pick one swimming idol, it will have to be my older sister, who was the first in our family to qualify for the Olympics in 2008 when she was 16.
"She has always been my biggest inspiration. She showed me that anything is possible. As long as you dare to dream it, you can reach it if you try."
The early mornings of waking up at 4.45am and ploughing through seven hours of swimming and gymwork (across three sessions) a day, five times a week, covering up to 60km in the pool is not something that every person empathises with.
But the Quahs are thankful they have each other.
Zheng Wen added: "Having a familiar face away from home helps and the support my older sister provides me so far away from home is really important to me.
"That kind of understanding comes only from someone who's also involved in the sport. It's really important that we support each other and push each other to the next level.
"I have to attribute a lot of my success to family support and the advice my sisters have given me. It's been really invaluable."
This would be Ting Wen's second Olympics after her debut at Beijing 2008. Having missed out on London 2012 through injury, the 23-year-old will be swimming the 100m butterfly in this edition.
She said: "It was a goal of ours to be able to represent Singapore at an Olympics together and we missed that in 2012, so it's great to be able to do that this year.
"It's one thing to be able to represent Singapore on the highest level; it's another to do that with someone who has been with you throughout the journey, whom you can trust and share everything with.
"We are a very small team, but there's no one I'd rather be here and be competing with than Zheng."
While the duo's pedigree has been proven - they have won a total of 20 gold medals at the SEA Games and seven at the Asian Youth Games - it is Zheng Wen who is proving he can blossom into a world-beater with three silvers and five bronzes across four stops of last year's Fina World Cup series.
It has been a remarkable rise for a swimmer who had doubts after "always losing to my compatriots" before he won his first SEA Games gold medal in the 400m individual medley as a 15-year-old at Indonesia 2011, which convinced him that he has a future in the sport.
And, even then, it took plenty of sacrifices and hard work for him to emerge from the bottom of the pool - at London 2012, he was placed 33rd out of 37 swimmers in the 400m IM and was last out of 35 swimmers for the 200m backstroke - and talk about fighting for a final.
Zheng Wen said: "I may not have beaten Chad le Clos or Viktor Bromer but, having raced against them and running them close at the World Cup, I find that I'm not being scared of the occasion and it's awesome.
"The aim for Rio is to make the semi-finals or a final. If I can achieve this, it will set me up really well for Tokyo 2020."
In four years' time, the Quahs could yet write themselves into the history books if they, along with 16-year-old younger sister Jing Wen, can qualify and become the first trio of Singaporean siblings to compete at the same Olympics.
"Four years is a long time, but it would be cool if we can all compete at the Olympics together," said Ting Wen.
She has always been my biggest inspiration. She showed me that anything is possible. As long as you dare to dream it, you can reach it if you try.
— Quah Zheng Wen, on his sister Quah Ting Wen
- Name: Quah Ting Wen
- Date of birth: Aug 18, 1992
- Previous Olympic experience: Beijing 2008 (400m individual medley, heats)
- National records (individual): 55.52 (100m freestyle), 1:59.21 (200m freestyle), 4:51.25 (400m iM),
- Name: Quah Zheng Wen
- Date of birth: Sept 29, 1996
- Previous Olympic experience: London 2012 (400m iM and 200m backstroke, heats)
- National records (individual): 25.13 (50m backstroke), 54.03 (100m backstroke), 2:00.55 (200m backstroke), 4:21.70 (400m iM)