Swimming: Darren Lim not setting world cup target

Age is on the side of freestyle specialist Darren Lim who just turned 15. He had already shown in August's Asian Youth Games in China that he was among the continent's top young talents when he won the 50m freestyle gold.

Still only a teenager, yet to sit his O levels and acne on his forehead - but swimmer Darren Lim is already expected to be a standard bearer for Singapore.

Having just turned 15 less than three weeks ago, the Coleman College student will be one to watch at next week's Fina Swimming World Cup at the Singapore Sports School.

The strapping 1.78m freestyle specialist will also compete in December's SEA Games in Myanmar in the 50m, 100m and 4x100m freestyle events.

But with the World Cup being a 25m short-course event, Darren, who has never competed in this format or in this series of meets organised by swimming's international federation Fina, is not setting his sights too high.

The Swimfast Aquatic Club member said: "I'm not going into the World Cup with any medal targets.

"It is all about gaining experience.

"Although the World Cup is a short-course event, it is still helpful in a long-course meet like the SEA Games because the starts and finishes have to be perfect, which will benefit a sprinter like me.

"I will aim for a medal but I am not hoping for too much or it will be too stressful."

Said his Swimfast coach David Lim, a former national swimmer and an Olympian: "Darren is relatively new to the scene. With more races under his belt, he will be calmer.

"He has a huge advantage as he is the only South-east Asia swimmer to go under 23 seconds in the 50m freestyle this year."

To manage his stress better, Darren tries to visualise his races, mentally rehearsing his turns and strokes. And to chase away those nerves, he listens to dance and electro music.

Darren's swimming career has been meteoric since he broke the Under-14 national records in the 50m and 100m freestyle at the National Age-Group Swimming Championships in March last year.

His 50m freestyle time of 23.87sec in last August's Singapore National Swimming Championships would have placed him fourth in the United States' all-time age-group rankings for 13- and 14-year-olds.

Then came another milestone in June's National Swimming Championships when he timed 22.73sec to become the first local swimmer since national record-holder Ang Peng Siong (22.69sec in 1982) to go below the 23-second barrier without the now-banned supersuit.

Ang's mark remains the oldest national record across all age-groups in Singapore.

Darren's feat was recognised with The Straits Times Star of the Month award for June.

In August's Asian Youth Games (AYG) in Nanjing, he confirmed his status as one of the continent's best young talents when he snatched the 50m freestyle gold in 23.09sec.

Looking ahead, Darren wants to make a splash in Myanmar and bring home some precious metal.

"Any gold medal will do," he said.

"My last meet was the AYG but the feeling is still there.

"I feel stronger now and my fitness is up."

David Lim expects Darren to make his mark at the SEA Games.

"Age is on his side and he could be around for a long time.

"The World Cup will be a good chance for him to watch top swimmers and learn how to control his emotion."

Some of the top male swimmers expected to compete in Singapore at the World Cup are South Africa duo Chad le Clos, who won gold at the London Olympics in the 200m butterfly, and Roland Schoeman, the world record-holder in the 50m short- course freestyle (20.30sec).

meng@sph.com.sg

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