BY TAN MING WAI
PETALING JAYA: National swimmer Kevin Yeap is ready to “go the distance” to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August.
The 25-year-old long distance specialist has turned his attention to the 10km open water race after giving up hopes of securing qualification in his two pet events – the 400m and 1,500m freestyle.
Kevin will be among the 68 men vying for the remaining 15 berths on offer at the Olympic Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal, on Sunday.
Kevin, who has been with the national team for almost 10 years, explained that his lacklustre performance in the last two years had prompted him to make the switch.
“I’ve not been able to go any faster since 2014,” said Kevin in a telephone interview from Setubal.
“There’s no way I’m going to make the cut in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle. So, I decided to switch to marathon swimming not long ago to keep my Olympic dreams alive.
“I don’t know what my chances are here, but I have to be confident because if I don’t try, nothing is going to happen.
“After all, I’m looking beyond this week. I have come all the way to Portugal ... because it’s also part of my preparation for next year’s SEA Games,” added the Ipoh-born athlete.
Kevin, however, is not entirely unfamiliar with Open water race, having won a bronze in the event at the 2011 Palembang SEA Games – the same year that he also won the 400m freestyle title.
Kevin was once a national record holder for the 400m freestyle with a time of 3:53.26. It stood for more than two years before it was broken by Welson Sim.
His other notable achievement was clocking a personal best 15:31.67 for a creditable fifth placing in the 1,500m freestyle at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. It was the closest he got to Jeffrey Ong's long-standing national record of 15:23.61 set at the World University Games in Sheffield, England, in 1991.