Aquatics: SEA Games 100m free champion Chua on track to defend title after hitting 'A' timingMarch 17, 2021
SINGAPORE – Reigning SEA Games 100m freestyle champion Darren Chua is on course to defend his title after hitting the regional meet’s ‘A’ timing at the Liberty Insurance 51st Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (Snag) on Wednesday (March 17).
He clocked 49.92sec to come in second in the men’s 100m free final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, 0.33sec behind his 2019 Philippines Games gold medal-winning time that saw him upset defending champion and compatriot Joseph Schooling.
The 20-year-old was among three swimmers who met the Games’ ‘A’ timing of 50.05sec on Wednesday, with the others being Jonathan Tan, who won in 49.69sec, and Mikkel Lee (50.01sec).
Competition is stiff with multiple national swimmers chasing two spots in the blue-riband event, but Chua welcomed the challenge.
He said: “It definitely makes us work for it, push each other harder and makes us more competitive.
“The ultimate goal is for all three of us to make the Olympic ‘A’ timing together as a team.”
While Chua, Tan and Lee made the ‘A’ cut for the Hanoi Games, the trio insisted that their focus is still very much on meeting the Olympic ‘A’ timing, which is 48.57sec.
But given how this was just their second meet since the coronavirus pandemic hit – and the first that was tapered since the 2019 SEA Games – they felt that there were still positives to take away from their race.
Lee, 18, said: “This meet is good for me to check where I’m at and it’s good to know that I’m fully tapered so I can fully compare this to before the pandemic and how I see improvements in my swim with regard to the training I’m doing.”
With the Snag and last December’s Singapore National Olympic Qualifier held behind closed doors, competing in a different environment without spectators is another thing that the swimmers have had to adjust to.
Tan, 19, said: “Prior to this meet, we were training very hard and focusing on our improving on our flaws from previous meets.
“What we have to work on is racing in an environment with no supporters. It’s a different situation and I guess some of us perform better or feel more excited when there are people in the stands. We don’t have a choice, it’s a process and everyone will get better at it.”
The first day of the Snag, which is a qualifying meet for major Games, got off to a slow start with none of the swimmers hitting Olympic ‘A’ timings.
Apart from Tan and Chua, there were several other swimmers who made the Olympic ‘B’ cut. Ong Jung Yi finished the 200m butterfly final in 1:58.71, an effort that also bettered the SEA Games ‘A’ time of 2:00.53, while Christie Chue touched the wall in 55.89sec in the women’s 100m free final.
The meet will run till Sunday.
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