PETALING JAYA: Vernon Lee showed there is hope for Malaysia to extend their dominance in middle and long distance men’s swimming discipline with a splashing performance at the just concluded 37th South East Asian age-group swimming championships in Brunei.
|Rising star: Vernon Lee is one of the swimmers Malaysia can rely on after a golden performance in the 37th South-East Asian age–group championships in Brunei.|
The Sarawakian schoolboy smashed the 17-year-old meet record of 4:01.49 held by former Asian Games gold medallist Torlap Sethsothorn of Thailand in winning the boys’s 16-18 age group’s 400m freestyle event in 3:58.14.
Torlap set the meet record back in 1996 before splashing to a three-gold debut for Thailand at the Jakarta SEA Games the following year as well as an Asian Games gold in 400m freestyle in 1998.
It was the second time Vernon dipped below the four-minute mark for the 400m freestyle and it needed a strong challenge from Thailand’s Tanakrit Kittiya, who pushed all the way to clock 3:58.31 for the silver.
The 17-year-old Vernon also erased the meet record for the 200m freestyle as well, posting 1:52.77 to break the 2011 mark of 1:53.75 held by Vietnam’s Quy Phuoc Hong.
Tanakrit, however, got the better of Vernon in the 1,500m freestyle. Tanakrit clocked 16:00.93 to finish ahead of Vernon, who came in second in 16:07.71 but otherwise had the consolation of also going under Torlap’s previous meet record of 16:18.18 set in 1995.
Indonesia SEA Games gold medallist Kevin Yap is the top Malaysian male swimmer but he can rest easy knowing there is a good replacement when he decides to quit in the future. There is no better proof than the organisers crowning Vernon, the triple gold medallist at the Malaysia Games in Kuantan last year, the best male swimmer in his age-group.
World Championships-bound swimmers Shaun Yap, Christina Loh and Yap Siew Hui also delivered for Malaysia in their pet breaststroke races.
Shaun erased the meet record of 1:05.29 set by Darrin Lam of Singapore last year in winning the boy’s 16-18 100m breaststroke event in 1:05.21. The Selangor swimmer also won the 50m breaststroke race in 30.00 for his second gold in the meet.
Kuala Lumpur lass Christina fell to a surprise defeat in the girls’ 16-18 50m breaststroke, clocking 34.25 but the gold still belonged to Malaysia as team-mate Phee Jing En romped home in 34.11.
Christina, however, made amends by touching home ahead of Jing En in the 100m breaststroke, clocking a winning time of 1:12.38.
Siew Hui, crowned the Best Overall Swimmer in the MSSM (national schools) meet in March, claimed a double in the girls’ 14-15 age group by winning the 50m and 100m butterfly.
The Selangor-born swimmer clocked 28.06 in the 50m butterfly, smashing the 2010 record of 28.34 belonging to Jenjira Srisaard of Thailand.
Siew Hui claimed her second gold in winning the 100m butterfly in 1:02.75.
Singapore were crowned overall champions after ending the three-day competition with 29 gold, 24 silver and 25 bronze medals and nine meet records. Thailand followed closely behind in the seven-country table with 28 gold, 40 silver and 24 bronze medals while Malaysia were third with their total of 24 gold, 18 silver and 15 bronze medals.