PETALING JAYA: Barcelona was the stage where backstroker Lim Keng Liat made a mighty splash for Malaysia by reaching into the top eight final at the World Championships exactly a decade ago but it failed to rub off on the current batch of swimmers.
None of the six swimmers who qualified for the world meet, which concluded yesterday, managed to go near their personal bests.
While they were not targeted to make the top 16 semis in the first place, aiming for their personal bests were only to be expected from them and this indicates how far Malaysia have fallen behind regional rivals Singapore and Thailand.
Kevin Yeap, who was the first and last Malaysian to go into action at the Palau Sant Jordi pool, clocked 3:59.08 in the 400m freestyle heats to finish 36th out of 48 competitors. It was way off his national record of 3:53.26 he set at the Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil in May this year.
The only consolation for Kevin, the defending SEA Games champion, was that he was the top swimmer from South East Asia ahead of Vietnam’s Pham Thanh Nguyen, who was placed 43rd with a time of 4:13.91.
Kevin made a tame effort in the 1,500m freestyle heats on Saturday, clocking 15:46.73 to finish 33rd overall and well outside his personal best of 15:32.51 clocked earlier this year.
Khoo Cai Lin swam in the same heat as American favourite Katie Ledecky in the women’s 400m freestyle but failed to be inspired as she clocked 4:23.67 to be placed 30th overall.
Cai Lin, who holds the national record of 4:10.75, will have to work harder now to bridge the gap ahead of the Myanmar SEA Games in December as she has fallen behind Lynette Lim of Singapore (22nd, 4:14.76) and Natthanan Junkrajang of Thailand (30th, 4:19.77).
Cai Lin completed the 800m freestyle event without much to show, clocking 8:51.87 for 25th overall, six seconds off her personal best of 8:45.36 set at the Laos SEA Games in 2009.
As for Siow Yi Ting, she got to swim the most – four events altogether (100m and 200m breaststroke and 200m and 400m medley) but did not make any headway. Still credit goes to Yi Ting, who despite already 28, is showing no signs of fading away and she is still a good gold medal prospect in the breaststroke disciplines come SEA Games in Myanmar.
Christina Loh only clocked 33.10 for 47th placing in women’s 50m breaststroke and it was not something to be proud of considering she was placed 20th with 32.29 in her world meet debut in Shanghai in 2001, which is still a national record until now.
Lim Chin Hwang and Shaun Yap also did not made good debuts in their respective men’s 200m freestyle and 50m breaststroke races.
|Lim Ching Hwang exits the pool after the men's 200m freestyle swimming heats event in the 15th FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on July 29, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. GLENN GUAN/The Star (Barcelona)|
The world meet is just not Malaysia’s cup of tea and Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia secretary Edwin Chong did not disagree but said it was also due to the fact that the swimmers were not programmed to peak in the morning.
“We expected it more or less as our swimmers trained to focus on peaking in the evening when the semis and finals are held.
“The SEA Games will be a different kettle of fish and we expect our swimmers to be competitive there as that is the real gauge of our standards.”