BY LIM TEIK HUAT
MALACCA: Welson Sim has to improve on his mental toughness if he wants to be the first Malaysian swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle golds at the SEA Games.
The 20-year-old eased off in the final few laps but still claimed victory in the men’s 1,500m freestyle of the Malaysia Open Swimming Championships at the Hang Jebat Aquatic Centre in Malacca yesterday.
The Rio Olympian clocked 15:43.50, not far off his personal best of 15:31.10 at the Singapore National Age-Group Championships in March this year.
India’s Sajan Prakash took the silver in 15:50.02 while Thai Kittiya Tanakrit secured the bronze in 16:00.88.
It was Welson’s fourth gold after finishing first in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle.
Welson is favoured to win the 200m and 400m freestyle but will have a battle on his hands in the gruelling 1,500m at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games from Aug 19-30.
Welson did not compete in the 1,500m freestyle in his SEA Games debut in Singapore two years ago but took gold in the 400m freestyle and bronze in the 200m freestyle.
Malaysian coach Paul Birmingham, however, is not expecting Welson to improve on his personal best in the 1,500m freestyle so soon.
“This is not the time to peak. We will work more on the 1,500m after we return home from the Mare Nostrum series (in Monaco, Spain and France) next month.
“Physically Welson has the fitness but it’s more of a mental thing to be good in the 200m, 400m and 1,500m. It’s really a painful commitment as the training set is different when you are swimming the 200m and 1,500m,” said Birmingham.