NAYPYIDAW - He had only one thought in the water: Don't screw it up.
So even though Quah Zheng Wen had already swum in two other races earlier yesterday evening, the 17-year-old summoned every ounce of energy during the men's 4x200m freestyle relay at the Zayar Thiri Swimming Complex.
In the face of a strong challenge from the Malaysian swimmers, Quah turned on the afterburners in the final 50 metres and blazed home just over half a second (0.65) ahead.
The team's time of 7min 26.67sec shattered the South-east Asia (SEA) Games record of 7:30.73 and set a new national record, sealing Singapore's fifth straight triumph in the event.
When asked what fired him up, he said: "Singapore has history of winning the 4x200m relay and, in living memory, I've never seen them losing.
"I just couldn't imagine myself being the one to lose it for Singapore."
Teammate Joseph Schooling said: "Zheng Wen had two other tough events but he did so well tonight. "I was so excited I was trying to cheer him on at the edge but two officials held me back.
"This means the world to us."
Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Mr Lawrence Wong also singled Zheng Wen out for praise. He said: "Even though this was his third event of the night, he anchored the team and, with the other swimmers, did very well to win gold and break the national and meet record.
"It's something we can be very proud of."
Runners-up Malaysia, who also set a new national record, vowed they would get better.
Swimmer Kevin Yeap said: "We now have to train even harder so that we can continue closing the gap, so maybe by the time the next SEA Games in Singapore, maybe we can beat them and win the gold."
Zheng Wen was Singapore's brightest star on the first day of swimming events, where the Republic's swimmers bagged three golds and three bronzes.
In addition to the relay gold, he won the 400m individual medley race, finishing in 4:23.45 to just edge out Thailand's Nuttapong Ketin (4:23.63) and Vietnamese Tran Duy Khoi (4:25.34).
Following the men's lead, Zheng Wen's older sister Ting Wen, Lynette Lim, Amanda Lim and Tao Li also won the gold in their 4x200m freestyle race, clocking 8:13.99.
Second-placed finishers Thailand were disqualified for getting the order of their swimmers wrong, so third-placed Indonesia (8:43.80) took silver and hosts Myanmar (9:23.54), the only other team in the race, won bronze.
Singapore's other two bronze medals were won by Zach Ong in the men's 200m backstroke with a time of 2:05.38, and Megan Lim in the women's 200m individual medley, where she clocked 2:20.38.
Meanwhile, Team Singapore have another shot at winning the women's 100m freestyle event after a re-race has been ordered for 6pm tonight following a starting device malfunction last night at the Wunna Theikdi Swimming Pool.
Thailand's Jenjira Srisa Ard jumped into the pool early but, despite the repeated beeps indicating a false start, the referees did not call for a restart.
Filipino Jasmine Alkhaldi went on to finish first in 56.65, ahead of Singaporean duo Quah Ting Wen (56.74) and Amanda Lim (57.21).
The medals were presented, but it is understood they will be hauled back and presented to the winners of the re-race tonight.
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