After setting a number of age-group breaststroke records, swimmer Lionel Khoo has had a quiet couple of years due to studies and National Service.
In that time, Christopher Cheong took over as Singapore's top breaststroke specialist, as the nation struggled to produce swimmers specialising in that stroke.
Khoo, 19, is playing catch-up in the pool, but he is aiming to make a splash at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil next June.
He continued his comeback yesterday, clocking 2 minutes 22 seconds in the men's 200m breaststroke at the Singapore National Swimming Championships, finishing third behind winner Cheong, who clocked 2min 18.51sec to meet the SEA Games 'A' qualifying mark of 2:18.57.
Brilliant Chua, 15, finished second in 2:21.28.
"It wasn't too good a swim, but it's still something for me to work towards the SEA Games," said Khoo, at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
The former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student holds the national 200m breaststroke mark, along with all three national records in the stroke at Under-17 level, as well as the 50m and 100m records at U-14 level.
The Swimfast Aquatic Club swimmer will have another two or three meets next year, ending with the Singapore National Age-Group Championships in March, to meet the SEA Games qualifying mark.
The top two swimmers overall for each event after all the meets will make Singapore's squad for the biennial Games if they meet the qualifying times, taking into account results from overseas-based swimmers like Joseph Schooling and Samantha Yeo.
Khoo and Cheong, who share a friendly rivalry, were exchanging race experiences yesterday when TNP approached them.
Cheong, 18, said: "I will take it one meet at a time, and having someone like Lionel around is a push factor and will spur me on to train harder."
Added Khoo: "At least there is another breaststroke swimmer who can play his part for Singapore and the relay team. Hopefully, I will improve with more competitions."
Danny Yeo, Pang Sheng Jun (both men's 200m freestyle), Quah Zheng Wen and Zach Ong (both men's 100m backstroke) also made the SEA Games 'A' qualifying marks yesterday on the first day of the six-day meet, which saw many swimmers competing just weeks after their school examinations.
Quah, 18, had stopped training completely after the Commonwealth Games in July to focus on his International Baccalaureate examinations, and returned to the pool only about three weeks ago.
Said the 2012 Olympian, who clocked 56.17sec in the 100m backstroke: "It hurt a lot more than it was supposed to but, with the lack of training, my time is pretty decent and SEA Games qualification is definitely a bonus."
This article was first published on Dec 17, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.