Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen is targeting at least a final spot in the upcoming FINA World Championships that will be held in Budapest, Hungary from 14 July to 30 July.
The 20-year-old will be competing in four events at the World Championships – the 100m and 200m butterfly, as well as the 100m and 200m backstroke. The swimming competition takes place from 23 to 30 July.
Fellow Singaporean and Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling will be participating in the butterfly events, along with Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, South African Chad le Clos and American Caeleb Dressel.
In the backstroke events, Quah is expected to face Americans Matt Grevers and 100m backstroke world record holder Ryan Murphy. Grevers won the gold medal in London in 2012 while Murphy won the gold medallist in both the 100m and 200m backstroke at the Rio Olympics.
Quah told Yahoo Singapore in a recent interview that he is “pretty confident” of what he can achieve at the World Championships.
“I’m very confident that I can definitely progress to at least the later stages, the semi-finals and final,” Quah said, citing his timing from the Rio Olympics, where he missed out on the final of the 200m fly by just 0.8 seconds.
“It’s definitely plausible. I’m pretty confident where I stand on the world level and being able to compete, even under pressurising situations.
“It is a personal goal, trying to get into at least a final, being in the top eight, to race among the best. I just want to give myself the best possible chance, to set myself up really well and we’ll see how it goes from there.”
Quah, however, admitted that he is still trying to adjust to racing in long course competitions, having swam the short course in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships.
He said, “It’s a whole new area. I’ve never so fully immersed myself in the short course before. I really can’t tell you, I’m still figuring it out myself.
“I really think it’s just taking the time out to get back into your stroke, into the long course rhythm of things… it varies from individual to individual.
“I’m still trying to work things through it so hopefully it comes through nicely before World Champs.”
Training in the United States
Quah also said that it was hard to judge how much he has improved during his first semester at the University of California, Berkeley, although he believes that he has grown as a person. He moved to the US to train under David Dureden in January. Dureden is also the head coach for the US swim team at the World Championships.
“It’s kind of difficult to tell with the period of time I’ve been there. Just six months there doesn’t really give us much opportunity to assess how I’m actually swimming, but I think I did pretty decently at NCAA,” Quah said.
In his first NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships meet in March, he finished second in the 200 yard butterfly behind Jack Conger of the University of Texas.
“My development not only as a swimmer, but as a person, has been going smoothly while I’ve been there and I’m definitely excited for the next few years to see what I can do,” he said.
Without naming specific team-mates, he described training with the Cal Bears in a ‘competitive’ environment as one of the major adjustments he had to make.
“I think the big part of being there is being part of a really highly competitive team. I think that’s the biggest change so far,” he said.
Working with his fellow Cal Bears has helped Quah to realise that it is not unrealistic to believe that he can become one of the best swimmers in the world.
“I won’t say I would have learned things from them, but more observing them and working with them, and realising that it’s an achievable goal,” Quah explained.
“The biggest takeaway from working with people like them is their work ethic, like coming to the pool and just how they do things in and out of it. It just breeds excellence I think.”
Singapore coach Gary Tan agreed that Quah’s time in the US had helped the swimmer grow up. Tan told Yahoo Singapore that Quah has certainly “gotten a lot more mature”.
“He’s taking care of himself a lot better. As you can tell, he’s a bit more articulate in the way he addresses certain things,” Tan assessed.
“Being over there has given him the opportunity to understand things a bit better, and also know his body better… He now understands the work he need to do to compete at the highest level,” said Tan.