Timings not great, but team spirit high among swimmers
National swimmers become a 'family' at training camp in Texas
The times were pedestrian, nowhere close to their best, but national coach Sergio Lopez was pleased with the way his swimmers approached the first day of the Arena Pro Swim Series in Texas.
Of the eight swimmers in action late on Friday night and yesterday morning (Singapore time), only Quah Zheng Wen progressed beyond the heats in Austin.
The 19-year-old clocked 53.23sec to finish eighth in the men's 100m butterfly heats.
Quah clocked 53.33 to finish eighth in the final, which was won by American swimming superstar Michael Phelps in 51.94.
Phelps' teammate Ryan Lochte, who topped the heats, was fifth in 52.73.
In a teleconference call, Quah said: "I had pretty good execution in the races today, especially in the number of strokes I had to take.
"I am not too happy with my times, but it is just a learning experience. I was racing with faster guys, and it has been a good eye-opener for me.
"I learnt how to be behind, for example, and then (still) be able to catch up. It is not about times now, but more about how to race."
Lopez added: "I think they all swam pretty well, especially after all the hard training. I had hoped that they could have gone a bit faster, but they all raced very well in a deep and fast pool of competitors."
Nine swimmers - Quah and his siblings Ting Wen and Jing Wen, Nur Marina Chan, Rachel Tseng, Amanda Lim, Pang Sheng Jun, Roanne Ho and Lionel Khoo - went to the US on Boxing Day to join Lopez for a training camp, which ended just before the meet.
Tseng is not taking part in the Austin competition, while Danny Yeo has joined the team for the meet.
Both Lopez and Quah said the training camp has been beneficial in getting the swimmers to free themselves from distractions and to build on teamwork, as they prepare for the Singapore National Age-Group Championships in March.
The annual competition is the key meet for Singapore swimmers to gain qualification for the Rio Olympics in August.
Only Quah and Texas-based Joseph Schooling have made the Olympic 'A' cuts - which guarantees qualification for Brazil.
Quah said: "The training camp was good for us to focus on our training because there were fewer distractions than in Singapore."
Lopez added that the team bonded well staying in one house in the latter part of the camp, and over activities such as grocery-shopping and cooking their own meals.
Texas-based Schooling joined the team only for the meet, as he was busy with his own training and competitions, while also recovering from illness.
The 20-year-old competed in only the men's 100m butterfly, and was 14th in the heats in 54.10sec.
He then opted out of swimming in the B finals yesterday morning.
Said the Olympic hopeful: "I have not been feeling well since last Wednesday... last Thursday my temperature went up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.89 deg C).
"In the morning heats today, I tried to push myself, but I know I was not 100 per cent.
"Although I'm disappointed with the time, I came into this race just wanting to have a feel of the water and see how far I could go."
While the Asian Games gold medallist and University of Texas undergraduate is currently training in short-course yards in preparation for the collegiate season, he does not see that as an issue for his preparation for Rio, where the competition is in long-course metres.
He said: "I am sticking to coach Eddie's (Reese) plan. For now, we are training in short-course yards but he has done this with many athletes, year in, year out, so I don't foresee it being a problem."
I am not too happy with my times, but it is just a learning experience. I was racing with the faster guys, and it has been a good eyeopener for me.
— Quah Zheng Wen
I think they all swam pretty well, especially after all the hard training. I had hoped that they could have gone a bit faster, but they all raced very well in a deep and fast pool of competitors.
— National coach Sergio Lopez