Swimmer Zheng Wen aims to be more than just S'pore flag-bearer

National swimmer Quah Zheng Wen (left), and national shooter Martina Veloso.

SINGAPORE - As he strode upstage to receive the Singapore flag from the chef de mission of the Asian Youth Games (AYG) squad on Wednesday, three words came to the mind of flag-bearer Quah Zheng Wen. "Don't mess up."

The 16-year-old swimmer was thinking of the heavy responsibility he will shoulder at the quadrennial Games in Nanjing.

His sister, Ting Wen, the flagbearer of the previous edition, had been the star of the first AYG which Singapore hosted in 2009. She won four gold medals in the pool.

Mathematically, Zheng Wen, who is entered for all four of the individual 200m events - freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and individual medley - and possibly in two relays (4x100m freestyle and medley), could repeat his sibling's feat.

But he knows it will not be easy, especially against powerhouses Japan - who did not participate in swimming in the previous Games - and China, who will be keen to put up a strong medal count on homeground.

Said Zheng Wen of Swimfast Aquatic Club: "Winning is a possibility. But it will be hard especially against Japan and China."

Adding that he was happy to carry on his family's name as flagbearer for the country, he said: "It's a real honour. My older sister was the flag-bearer, so it's kind of cool to be one as well. I wouldn't say that I'm pressured because of what she did at the previous Games, but it motivates me."

Zheng Wen, and the 84-strong contingent he is leading to China from Aug 16-24, were given a confidence boost on Wednesday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was the guest of honour at the Team Singapore flag presentation ceremony at Raffles Girls' School.

Said Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security, Minister for Home Affairs, and president of the Singapore National Olympic Council: "Sport also has the power to bond our communities and strengthen our national spirit. I am sure Singaporeans will be cheering for you all the way as you compete in Nanjing."

While Singapore claimed nine golds, six silvers and 15 bronzes in the inaugural edition, chef de mission Sharon Tan declined to set her team a medal target.

Said the former table-tennis player: "I hope that they can do their best in performance, sportsmanship, and behaviour. Swimming and shooting should get good results, if they perform to their best ability on the day."

Singapore will be represented in eight sports: aquatics (swimming and diving), athletics, badminton, fencing, football, judo, shooting and table tennis.

Besides Zheng Wen, another athlete that has been tipped to excel in Nanjing is 10m air-rifle shooter Martina Veloso.

Despite having picked up the sport only a year ago, the Secondary 2 Singapore Sports School student won a gold at the 19th International Junior Shooting meet in Germany last month. It was an Under-21 event with competitors from top shooting nations India, Italy, South Korea, Hungary, Russia and Germany.

But Martina, who clocked a perfect score of 400 at the Home Team Invitational Shoot in February, is keeping her expectations modest. She said: "I will try my best but I have no expectations of any medals. There will be a lot of shooters with a lot more experience than me."


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