School sports: Watch out for Francis

School sports: Watch out for Francis
Francis Fong (middle) is tipped for a bright future after his impressive showing at the National Schools Swimming Championships on 21 April 2015.

One is already an Olympian, a South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medallist and holder of five national swimming records, while the other is a 15-year-old whose biggest event to date was for experience, when he swam at the 2014 Fina World Swimming Championships in Qatar.

While Quah Zheng Wen, 18, seems destined for big things, starting at this year's SEA Games on home soil in June, 15-year-old Francis Fong is still striving for a major breakthrough.

Already, though, Singapore national coach Sergio Lopez and assistant Gary Tan are tipping Francis to be even better than Quah.

The Anglo Chinese School (Independent) student clocked 2min 08.53sec to break Quah's 2014 meet record of 2:09.16sec in the B Division boys' 200m backstroke at the National Schools Swimming Championships yesterday to win gold.

"Francis can be better than Zheng Wen," said Lopez, after the race at the Singapore Sports School.

"I know Zheng Wen is one of the top swimmers in Singapore and a great athlete in his own right, but why not?

"Anyone can be better than the other. That's what sport is about.

"Francis is a very good swimmer, and he has the right hunger, attitude and potential to be one of the best swimmers around, which he eventually will be."

That is exactly what Francis wants to accomplish.

"I'm extremely thrilled to have broken Zheng Wen's meet record, but it's still early days. There is still a long way to go," he said.

The two do share some similarities.

Quah also studied at ACS (I) and the backstroke races and 400m individual medley are the duo's pet events.

Quah currently holds the national records for the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke, and Francis is beginning to make his own mark.

He won gold in the 100m backstroke yesterday as well, and will be going for one more today in the 4x50m medley relay.


Tan, the national team's assistant coach, says Francis' size and strength give him an edge over many young swimmers in Singapore.

Francis towers over most of his peers at 1.85m and, with long, muscular arms hanging out of broad shoulders, he slices through the water easily and quickly.

"He has obvious talent, but more than that, he has the perfect physique," said Tan.

"He's very big and tall for his age, so that's a huge plus point. Coupled with training, he can definitely get to where he wants to be, without a shadow of doubt."


This article was first published on April 22, 2015.
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