|Ready for action: Kevin Yeap (left) and compatriot Khoo Cai Lin have both qualified for the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona next July.|
PETALING JAYA: How many swimmers can say they have competed against an Olympic champion and world record holder? Not many, right?
That is why Kevin Yeap was glowing with pride when he returned home from the Asian Swimming Championships in Dubai yesterday.
Kevin had the chance to swim not once, but three times, in the same pool with London Olympic double gold medallist Sun Yang of China.
Sun Yang, who trains in Gold Coast, Australia, is currently the most marketable athlete in his home country after winning two Olympic gold medals in world record times.
And he lived up to his billing at the Asian meet by winning three gold medals – in the 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle – in new meet record times.
Sun Yang never flaunted his star status in Dubai, leaving Kevin humbled by the experienced.
“He was humble despite his giant status. He was not arrogant and easily approachable. I managed to chat with him in Dubai. I took part in the same events as him (200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle) and managed to make the finals in all three.
“I’ve raced with him at the Guangzhou Asian Games two years ago. But it was different this time as he wasn’t the world and Olympic champion then,” said Kevin, the Indonesia SEA Games gold medallist in the 1,500m freestyle.
Asked what he can take from his meeting with Sun Yang, Kevin said “it’s his rapid rise to greatness.
“It gives me great inspiration to become like him. His positive and humble attitude makes people respect him even more,” said Kevin, who narrowly missed out on the bronze for the 1,500m freestyle by 0.15sec to Takumi Komatsu of Japan.
Kevin can certainly do with a little inspiration as he has Jeffrey Ong’s long-standing record of 15:23.61 in the 1,500m freestyle since 1991 in his sights.
Kevin has a personal best of 15:32.51, which he did at the Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil this year, and is without doubt the best candidate to erase the longest existing swimming record in the country.
The 23-year-old could do just that at the World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona next July, having booked his ticket for the 400m and 1,500m freestyle events.
Besides Kevin, Khoo Cai Lin has also qualified for two quota spots in the women’s 400m and 800m freestyle for the world meet.
Tomorrow will be the divers’ turn to see action in the Asian meet, which is held every four years.
Malaysia have two men (Ooi Tze Liang and Chew Yiwei) and three women (Wendy Ng Yan Yee, Cheong Jun Hoong and Loh Zhiayi) in the fray.