SINGAPORE - In the end, two seconds was what stood between Joseph Schooling and perfection.
It had come down to the final event of the five-day meet, with only the men's 4x100m medley gold left for him to make a perfect six-for-six SEA Games record.
But it was not to be and Team Singapore fell short - 1.97sec to be exact - as they were beaten by Indonesia, who touched home in 3min 41.65sec for the gold.
Said Joseph, who still walked away as the top-performing swimmer with five golds (four in meet- record time) and one silver: "The six-gold target is not as easy as it seems because nothing is really certain until it's done.
"I'm a little disappointed but I can't be too disappointed.
"I've come a long, long way from 2009 and, hopefully, I can do even better in 2015."
In Monday's relay, the 18-year-old - who won two golds in 2009 - put in a magnificent shift in the butterfly leg.
He clocked 51.98sec to cut down on Indonesia's lead after the third leg by almost two seconds. Their butterfly swimmer Glenn Sutanto clocked 53.61.
Unfortunately, the gap left by his team-mates in the backstroke and breaststroke legs proved too much.
Backstroker Quah Zheng Wen led the team off to second place, almost a second behind his arch-rival Siman Sudartawa.
But having competed twice in two earlier events - the 200m free where he won bronze and the 200m fly where he got a silver - fatigue had got to the teenager.
He said: "It was super painful after the first two events. I really wanted to lead my team off and even if we were to lose to them as a team, I didn't want to lose my personal match against their swimmer.
"But, in the end, they are a better team. They have an edge over us and they are more experienced.
"Maybe, in 2015, we will get them."
The team's gold chance came undone in the breaststroke leg as Christopher Cheong, 16, fell a further 21/2sec behind Indra Gunawan. Said Joseph: "Indra is a monster and a really great relay swimmer. I knew I had to do something special to make up for the time and I gave it my best shot.
"Christopher is still young and I'm sure he will also improve."
At the end of the competition, Singapore registered a tally of 11 golds, nine silvers and nine bronzes at Naypyidaw.
The men edged the women by one gold in the battle of the sexes - the first time in 22 years.
For the men, Joseph won the 200m individual medley, 100m and 200m fly events while Zheng Wen added another win in the 400m IM. The other two came from the 4x100m free and 4x200m free relays.
Amanda Lim, who claimed the title of South-east Asia's fastest woman for the third consecutive time in the 50m free yesterday, added to Tao Li's wins in the 100m back and 100m fly.
The women also won the 4x100m medley and 4x200m free relays.
Singapore's total golds fell short of the 17 gained in 2011 (there were an additional six events on offer) and also the 14 in 2009.
They are, however, still the leading South-east Asian nation.
Second-placed Thailand had a 7-7-8 tally while third-placed Indonesia were at 5-6-4.
National head coach Ian Turner said yesterday that he was still proud of the team's performance but added that they would need to work harder ahead of the 2015 Games in Singapore to keep their status.
He said: "It was a solid team performance.
"Sometimes, you set yourself up by being successful because everyone wants to beat the top team.
"It's always easier to do the chasing and we will have some homework to do towards 2015.
"But let's not deprive the team here of their success because 11 golds is still an exceptional job."
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