HANOI: A miracle, a dream but now a reality.
On Thursday (May 19), it was all three of the above for Singapore's Teong Tzen Wei as he went under 22 seconds for the first time and smashed the SEA Games 50m freestyle record with a time of 21.93.
"It kind of feels like miracles do happen," Teong told reporters after the race. "I would like to thank all the people who helped me in the past and helped me through my journey to go under 22 seconds."
Based on swimming governing body FINA's rankings, Teong's time is the second fastest recorded by an Asian swimmer this year.
Singapore’s swimmers, including Teong, added four golds on the final day of competition at the My Dinh Aquatics Palace to bring the total haul from the pool at the 31st SEA Games to 21 golds, 11 silvers and 12 bronzes.
This is only two short of the all-time best gold medal showing of 23 at the 2019 and 2015 Games.
At a meet where Singapore’s young swimmers have impressed, it was only fitting that debutant Letitia Sim got the gold rush under way when she won the women's 100m breaststroke. Singapore's Christie Chue took third.
Sim, who is 19, finished her maiden Games with three golds and one bronze.
Then came Teong's sensational swim, with the Singaporean completing a one-two with Jonathan Tan who was the defending champion in the event.
This is the second Games record Teong has set, after eclipsing Joseph Schooling's 50m butterfly record earlier in the week.
Quah Jing Wen added to her haul of four golds with another two on the night, winning the 100m butterfly ahead of her sister Ting Wen and then combining with Ting Wen, Christie Chue and Gan Ching Hwee to win the 4x200 freestyle relay.
This means that Jing Wen finished the Games with six golds, while 18-year-old Gan has five to her name.
“I personally feel that (at) this meet … I’m on the up and up,” Jing Wen told reporters.
“In the past four years, I feel like I've been stagnant and not making any progress and I do truly believe that at this meet, I’ve shown just a little bit of what I am capable of and it's very comforting to know that I'm still improving and I'm on the way to achieving my goal.”
Speaking to the media, national head coach Gary Tan said that the team surpassed expectations.
“In my opinion, we outperformed our expectations. We were quietly working through some numbers and of course, we could either hit 25 (golds) or we could hit 12,” he said.
“So we didn't know what to expect. I think we've come on a middle ground of 21, it's a nice number to have. So I'm happy with the result and really pleased with how all the swimmers have performed.”
Tan also described the 31st SEA Games as the most challenging Games he had encountered.
“This one was tough. There were a lot of early issues of logistics as well, but I think they have pulled through it. I can't complain because we're still the top swimming nation here,” he said.
“So I'm just pleased with the way things have actually panned out.”