Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Star : Swimmer Daniel’s got a point to prove

By Lim Teik Huat

PETALING JAYA: After lying low for almost two years, Daniel Bego has good reason to make a big splash when he sets his foot in Naypyitaw for the SEA Games swimming competition next month.

National swimmer Daniel Bego wants to prove he can still win at the SEA Games in Myanmar next month after recovering from shoulder injury that caused him to miss the last Games in Indonesia. - Filepic

Daniel is just one short of an impressive tally of 10 individual gold medals from the SEA Games.

And the 24-year-old is determined to make up for lost time after undergoing two shoulder surgeries to correct a long-standing bone spur problem which prevented him from defending his titles at the last SEA Games in Indonesia.

Daniel made his SEA Games debut in Hanoi in 2003 but it was in Manila two years later that he started to make his presence felt with victories in the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly.

The Sarawakian successfully defended the two titles in Korat in 2007 but it was at the Laos SEA Games two years later that he made ripples in the pool.

Daniel splashed to five gold medals in Vientiane, winning the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle, and 100m and 200m butterfly. Four of the victories came along with SEA Games records.

From a rollercoaster high, his career then took a massive dip when he had to go through a long rehabilitation period to let his shoulders heal.

Daniel had to give up participation in the 2011 SEA Games and a chance to make his second Olympic appearance in London as well last year.

This is why Daniel can consider half the battle is already won as he looks forward to his fifth SEA Games appearance.

”I am just relieved I am going to the SEA Games again.

”It was a tough period when I had to lay off the pool for some time to let my shoulders recover properly.

”The coach (Paul Birmingham) says I missed tons of training and he is right.

”It took me some time to get my speed back to a decent level and there were times when I doubted myself, whether I could do it again,” said Daniel, who underlined his intentions ahead of his return to the SEA Games scene with a strong performance in the FINA Swimming World Cup short course meet in Singapore recently.

Daniel managed to qualify for the 400m freestyle final en route to finishing sixth.

Daniel has been entered for four individual events in Myanmar - 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle as well as the 100m butterfly.

The 200m butterfly has been dropped from the programme but Daniel would not have had much chance against World Championships semi-finalist Joseph Schooling of Singapore, who has openly declared his intention to rule the pool by raking in a possible tally of seven individual golds.

If anything, the 400m freestyle offers Daniel the strongest chance of bringing his gold medal collection to 10 but for now he is just set on enjoying himself in the pool.

”I am looking forward to racing at the SEA Games again. There are faster swimmers out there but I am not worried at this point. I can only prepare the best I can for the competition,” added Daniel, who holds five national swimming records (100m, 200m and 400m freestyle, and 100m and 200m butterfly).

Aquatics have been singled out as the biggest gold medal contributor in Myanmar during the team managers’ meeting to finalise the Malaysian contingent recently.

Swimming and diving are expected to deliver nothing less than 10 gold medals this time to help the Malaysian contingent reach the target of 40.

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