SEA Games: Quah siblings almost didn't compete

SEA Games: Quah siblings almost didn't compete
Quah Zheng Wen at the victory ceremony receiving his gold medal

The SEA Games torch relay at the opening ceremony last Friday at the National Stadium was a spectacular affair, paying tribute to former sports stars of the country and also giving a nod to today's young guns.

Over the past six nights at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the Quahs - Ting Wen, Zheng Wen and Jing Wen - have claimed a total of 21 swimming medals.

There was Bernard, Alex, Patricia, Roy and Mark Chan, in the 60s and 70s, Oon Jin Teik and Jin Gee in the 80s, Elaine and Junie Sng in the 70s and 80s, and Desmond and Gerald Koh in the 90s.

Now, Singapore have another family of stars delivering in the pool.

Zheng Wen, 18, medalled in all 12 events he was entered in, becoming the first Singaporean to win gold in all three men's backstroke events.

He was part of all three relay teams that broke Games records, and ended his campaign with seven golds, four silvers and one bronze.

Ting Wen, 22, also picked up eight medals - four golds and four silvers - and broke the women's 100m freestyle Games record.

Baby sister Jing Wen, 14, capped a stunning outing by the siblings when she won bronze in the women's 400m individual medley, her only event.

Speaking to The New Paper last night, Ting Wen revealed how this dominance by the Quahs almost didn't happen because she was disillusioned after the 2013 SEA Games, when she failed to win an individual race.

"After that, I wasn't sure whether I should continue swimming because I wasn't performing at international level.

"But I'm really thankful to have certain things coming into my life at certain times. For example, the appointment of Sergio (Lopez) as national coach really re-ignited my passion for swimming," she said.

"He brought new and great ways to swimming fast, and instilled a team spirit to what is often an individual sport, where we spend so much time just looking at a line underwater.

"And then, of course, to be able to train with my siblings and compete at a major Games together in front of our family feels extra special.

"We share each other's joy and pain. That may not be a good thing all the time, but I guess it's generally good to have someone there whom you can trust and who understands you."

Zheng Wen spoke of how he had to battle flu symptoms to accomplish his great feat.

"I felt it on the second day of competitions and tried to arrest it with lozenges," he said.

"The 400m individual medley was the most demanding and I was super spent after that. It was all about mental strength after that.

"I have never raced in so many events at a major Games, and I learnt that I can do it if I race smart and pace myself.

"If I keep my head in the game, I can do amazing things."

Just six months after completing his international baccalaureate, Zheng Wen was one of the big stars of a Singapore swimming team that won a record haul of 23 swimming golds, eclipsing the previous best mark of 21 in the 1973 Games, also on home soil.

Zheng Wen, the most bemedalled athlete of these Games, said: "I never look at such stats as being the most bemedalled athlete.

"Sergio entered me in so many events not for personal gain, but because we want to contribute as we can for Team Singapore."

And the lanky star known as "Iron Nose" has already set his sights set on flying the Singapore flag on a bigger stage.

He said: "I have a good vibe about our men's freestyle relay team and if we can make it to the top 12 at the World Championships (July 24 to Aug 9 in Russia), we will qualify for the Olympics, which would be awesome.

"Ting Wen has met the 2016 Olympic B mark in some individual events, and to be able to compete together at the Olympics, the pinnacle of sports, will be an incredible experience.

"I'm really proud of my sisters, Jing Wen too.

"In her one and only event, and it would be all to easy to crumble under that pressure, she medalled and she will go on to greater heights."

This article was first published on June 12, 2015.
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