|Welsom Sim first Malaysian swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games under category A.|
PETALING JAYA: Welson Sim has become the first Malaysian swimmer to have qualified for the Olympic Games under category A.
He made the historic breakthrough in the men’s 400m freestyle at the Singapore national age-group swimming championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Welson also smashed his own national record of 3:52.83, set at the World Cup meet in Doha last November, en route to winning the final in 3:50.33 on Thursday
Taiwan’s An Ting-yao (3:55.45) took silver and Singapore’s Yeo Kai Quan (4:02.18) the bronze.
The 18-year-old Welson thus becomes the first Malaysian swimmer to dip under the Olympic A time of 3:50.40.
He had twice beaten the B qualifying time at the World Cup meets last year.
But those times did not guarantee him a place at the Olympics since the new qualifying system came into effect at the 2012 Olympics in London.
His latest effort would have earned him the bronze at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 behind the two giants of world swimming – China’s Sun Yang and South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan.
National swimming coach Paul Birmingham, who broke the news, said he was not surprised with Welson’s outstanding achievement.
“I’m really happy with his result. His training over the last six months showed that he could do it.
“It’s just taken him more race practices to get the pacing better.
“I’m thankful to the National Sports Council (NSC) for giving us the funding to race,” he said.
Besides swimming, Malaysia also have representatives in archery, track cycling, diving, shooting and sailing for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.