PETALING JAYA: Welson Sim has done it again.
The 18-year-old has become the first Malaysian swimmer to qualify for two Olympic “A” events after claiming the men’s 200m freestyle gold medal in record-breaking fashion at the Singapore National Age Group swimming championships on Friday.
Welson touched the wall in a sensational 1:47.67 at the OCBC Aquatic Centre to smash his national mark of 1:48.11 set at the World Cup meet in Doha last November.
He thus dipped under the Rio Olympic “A” time of 1:47.97 for the event.
|Simply fantastic. Welson Sim becomes the first Malaysian swimmer to qualify for two Olympics events.|
Victory for Welson tasted even sweeter as he beat Singapore favourite Quah Zheng Wen in his own backyard.
Zheng Wen, who romped to seven gold medals in the SEA Games at the same venue last year, clocked 1:50.43 for the silver while his compatriot Danny Yeo (1:50.99) took bronze.
Welson had showed signs of what was to come when he posted 1:49.62 to emerge as the fastest qualifier for the top-eight final in the morning preliminaries.
“I’m very happy and proud of what I’ve achieved as this is going to be my first Olympics ... I’m also the first swimmer to make the cut for two Olympic ‘A’ events,” said a delighted Sarawak-born Welson.
On Thursday, he became the first Malaysian swimmer to achieve A qualifying standards since the new system took effect at the 2012 London Olympics when he won the 400m freestyle event in 3:50.33 – smashing his own national record of 3:52.83 set at the World Cup meet in Doha.
Alex Lim Keng Liat had also made the “A” time for men’s 100m backstroke at the 2004 Olympics, but back then a swimmer who meets even the “B” time was assured of Olympic qualification.
National swimming coach Paul Birmingham was delighted to see Welson put up such a superb performance on his way to sweeping both the middle distance titles.
“We tried a different strategy ... went out a bit easier. It worked well. He did 55.3 for the first 100m and 54.3 for the second 100m ... really great splitting,” he said.
Malaysia have also qualified athletes in archery, track cycling, diving, shooting and sailing for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
Phee Jinq En also erased her own national record of 1:09.64, set at the World Cup meet in Doha last year, on her way to winning the women’s 100m breaststroke “B” final in 1:08.99.
She was third fastest in the heats in 1:11.04, but had to swim in the consolation final as the rules only allowed two foreigners to race in the “A” final.