Even with the support of her two elder siblings during her preparations for the 28th SEA Games, Quah Jing Wen did not expect to win anything in her debut.
But Jing Wen, who only turns 15 this December, swam her way to a surprise bronze medal in the women’s 400m individual medley on Saturday evening at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
She clocked 4m59.52s to finish third, while Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Anh Vien retained her title and broke the Games record in 4m42.88s.
Jing Wen acknowledged the help from sister Ting Wen and brother Zheng Wen after her event, where she also achieved a new personal best (PB).
“They encouraged me every single day to do my best and they just really pushed me to my limits,” she said.
“It being my first Games, like my first big meet, I wasn’t really expecting much. I just wanted to do my best and maybe try for a PB. I didn’t really expect to win anything but I did, so I'm really happy.”
The Methodist Girls’ School student admitted that she was “very nervous” before taking the plunge, but “just told myself that I had trained for this and all my hard work would be put to use” in the pool.
A stepping stone
Zheng Wen, 18, said his younger sister’s training paid off and backed her to continue doing well.
“Well, it’s (the bronze) definitely not luck,” he asserted. “It’s her only event so I'm really glad that it turned out well for her and she did a personal best time, so I think that’s a really huge bonus.
“I think it’ll give her the confidence to go further in other competitions and it’s really good for her as a stepping stone.”
His elder sister, Ting Wen, even headed up to the spectator stands to cheer on Jing Wen before her own race, shouting “come on!” repeatedly as her sister swam.
When Yahoo Singapore asked if she gave her younger sister any advice, she replied, “I didn’t. She knows what to do.”
Making up for disappointment
The 22-year-old also watched her brother swim the 100m backstroke, where Zheng Wen smashed both the national and meet records en route to Singapore’s first swimming gold of these Games in 54.51s.
He dethroned defending champion I Gede Siman Sudartawa of Indonesia, the previous meet record-holder who had won the event in the last two editions.
Zheng Wen, the silver medallist in 2013, trailed by 0.19s at the turn but powered home in remarkable fashion to clinch the gold.
“When I turned at the first 50m, I kind of took a tiny look underwater and saw him next to him - it just really fired me up to out-touch him at the wall,” he said.
The win made up for the disappointment in the Games’ first swimming event earlier, where he finished second to Vietnam’s Hoang Quy Phuoc in the 200m freestyle final.
“I think the nerves got to me a little bit in the dive and I think I messed it up a little bit, and I think that cost me the gold in that sense,” he explained.
“I can’t help but have a little bit of disappointment, which is re-emphasised by the fact that the Games is being held in Singapore and I wanted to do everyone proud. It’s just eating a little bit at me, but I think I’ll get over it.”
Then, perhaps showing that he was starting to recover from the incident, he joked about what Jing Wen could do for the rest of the Games: “She can help us do chores and stuff!”
Two golds for Singapore on first day of swimming
Ting Wen completed a good evening of swimming for the Quahs when she anchored the women’s team to win the 4x100m freestyle relay in the last race of the night.
Together with Amanda Lim, Hoong En Qi and Nur Marina Chan, they saw off defending champions Thailand, who contained three members from their 2013-winning team. Their time of 3m46.6s was just off the national and Games mark of 3m45.73s.
Lionel Khoo did break Christopher Cheong’s 200m breaststroke national record by 0.04s with a time of 2m16.66s to clinch silver, while Cheong finished third in the same race.
Singapore swimming star Joseph Schooling will start his quest for nine golds when he takes to the 100m freestyle heats on Sunday morning.There will also be Singaporeans in the 50m butterfly, 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley, and the men’s 4x200 freestyle relay.