VERNON Lee has come a long way since taking up swimming at age seven.
The Sarawak-born, who only learned swimming for his own safety, earned a breakthrough with a splashing performance at the Southeast Asian Age-Group Championships, which ended on Sunday, in Brunei.
Vernon, 17, starred with two meet records en route to two gold medals to emerge as the meet's top performer.
He first broke the 17-year-old meet record of 4:01.49, held by Thailand's former Asian Games champion Torlap Sethsothorn, in the boys' 16-18 400m freestyle. He finished the race in 3:58.14.
He needed a strong challenge from Thailand's Tanakrit Kittiya, who finished in 3:58.31 for silver, to dip below the four-minute mark for only the second time in his career.
A triple gold medallist at last year's Malaysia Games in Kuantan, Vernon went on to smash the 200m freestyle meet record of 1:53.75 by posting 1:52.77.
Tanakrit, however, denied Vernon his third gold after the Thai won the 1,500m freestyle.
Tanakrit clocked 16:00.93 to finish ahead of Vernon, who came in second in 16:07.71.
Vernon's performance in Brunei augurs well for Malaysia's future in the middle and long distance freestyle discipline.
World Championships-bound swimmers Shaun Yap, Christina Loh and Yap Siew Hui also won gold in their respective events.
Shaun smashed the boys' 16-18 100m breaststroke meet record of 1:05.29 set by Singapore's Darrin Lam last year, by clocking 1:05.21 before winning his second gold in the 50m breaststroke in 30.00.
Sea Games gold medallist Christina was edged by teammate Phee Jing En in the girls' 16-18 50m breaststroke. Christina posted 34.25 to Jing En's 34.11.
She, however, made amends by overcoming Jing En in the 100m breaststroke in 1:12.38.
Siew Hui produced a commendable performance by claiming the girls' 14-15 50m and 100m butterfly titles.
She clocked 28.06 in the 50m butterfly and 1:02.75 in the 100m butterfly.
Singapore were crowned champions in the three-day meet with 29 gold, 24 silver and 25 bronze followed by Thailand (28-40-24) and Malaysia (24-18-15).
|Vernon Lee won two gold medals at the Southeast Asian Age-Group Championships in Brunei|
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