KUALA LUMPUR: National swimming coach Paul Birmingham admits that losing the talismanic Daniel Bego to injury is a setback, but it won’t dampen the team’s efforts to plot another record-breaking feat in the upcoming Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Daniel, who made a stunning return at last December’s Myanmar SEA Games by capturing the 400m freestyle title, was instrumental in helping the team smash the national 4x200m freestyle relay record by a remarkable four seconds, en route to winning the silver medal, narrowly losing to powerhouse Singapore.
The 7:27.32 set by the team, which also comprised Asian Youth Games gold medallist Lim Ching Hwang, Kevin Yeap and Welson Sim, was good enough to book them a spot in Glasgow on merit.
But Daniel’s long-standing shoulder problem recurred after the Games and he has not seen any competitive action this year.
Although the Sarawakian will not be considered for the Commonwealth Games in July, Birmingham hopes he will return in time for the Incheon Asian Games in September.
“It’s difficult (without Daniel), but we’ll try our best to cope in his absence,” said Birmingham, who has been in charge of the national team since 2008.
“But it’s all still positive at the moment, considering the other three members of the team have improved in their respective 200m races.
“Ching Hwang is swimming about the same time as last season, while Kevin and Welson have done well to slash a second off their timings.
“All in all, we are faster by about three seconds,” he said.
Birmingham will not be losing sleep over Daniel’s absence as he has several options to choose from.
Sarawakian Vernon Lee, a triple gold medallist at the Pahang Sukma two years ago, is expected to fill in for Daniel.
Failing which, there is also Nanjing Youth Olympic Games-bound Yeap Zheng Yang, who is only 15 but has shown potential.
Zheng Yang, joined the trio of Welson, Kevin and Vernon, to form the gold medal-winning quartet at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia last year. They set the previous national mark of 7:31.44 before it was broken three months later at the SEA Games.
Kevin, who claimed the 400m and 1,500m freestyle titles at last weekend’s Malaysian Open, sympathised with Daniel over his recurring injury.
“It’s a shame that Daniel has to be out of action again due to his old injury. It’s frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Kevin.
“But even without Daniel, life goes on for us. Our goal of reaching the Commonwealth Games final in the relay event and renewing our national record remains unchanged,” he said.