For the last two months, Singapore swimmer Quah Zheng Wen's profile was conspicuously missing from the men's swimming online roster of the University of California, Berkeley.
Quah, 20, had announced in early January that he would leave for the United States to train and study at UC Berkeley, albeit under a cloud of uncertainty over his eligibility for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competitions.
But, yesterday morning (Singapore time), the two-time Olympian was finally added to the roster of the Cal Bears, after he was declared eligible for NCAA competitions, according to respected website Swimswam.
On the same day, the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) graduate made an emphatic statement by clocking 1min 40.36sec in the men's 200-yard butterfly at the Pac-12 Invitational in Washington's Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
Quah bettered the NCAA "A" qualifying time of 1:41.86 for the event, and is second only to University of Texas' Jack Conger (1:39.17) this season.
Quah was the only swimmer in that event, as the meet was used by swimmers to better their timings or make qualifying timings.
The lanky swimmer also clocked "B" qualifying times for the men's 100-yard fly (46.77sec) and the men's 100-yard back (47.05).
"I am very appreciative of the opportunity to compete at the upcoming NCAA season and would like to thank everyone for all their support and I look forward to racing my best with the Cal Bears," said Quah yesterday.
Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) president Lee Kok Choy said: "The SSA understands that Zheng Wen has received approval on his NCAA application yesterday.
"We congratulate Zheng Wen and his family on this wonderful news, and wish him all the best with the Cal Bears at the upcoming NCAA season."
The multiple South-east Asia Games gold medallist's eligibility to swim in NCAA competitions had been an issue because of a deal he signed with Liberty Insurance last year, as well as the prize money he received from doing well at the various Fina World Cup legs.
A key cornerstone of NCAA competitions is that the athletes must be amateurs who don't receive money from racing or endorsements.
On Quah's eligibility issue, Cal Bears men's head coach Dave Durden told Swimswam: "That was all taken into account, and Jay Larson (assistant athletic director, compliance) just kept us up to date on what he was doing, and to be honest, I haven't even seen the letter that was sent to the NCAA.
"I coach swimming, I don't work in compliance, and so I let those guys do their thing and work with Quah and his family.
"The NCAA takes these things very seriously, and that's why it took a while to get a decision back."
Durden lauded his new swimmer for his handling of the transition to the United States and the wait for NCAA's clearance.
"Any kid that starts the academic process, it's a tough transition and it's a tough process and he's handled it very well," said the head coach.
Quah's 200-yard fly effort yesterday morning set him up for a showdown with Conger and his Singapore teammate Joseph Schooling at the NCAA Championships later this month
Schooling won the event the last two seasons, setting an NCAA record of 1:37.90 last year.
The University of Texas undergraduate clocked 1:41.58 in the heats at the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships late last month, but scratched the finals to focus on the relays.
This article was first published on Mar 07, 2017.
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