Cal’s Zheng Wen Quah Swims 1:40 200 Fly on 1st Day of NCAA Eligibility

When Cal first-year swimmer Zheng Wen Quah’s name was absent from the psych sheets at the 2017 Men’s Pac-12 Championships, it appeared as though time had run out for the Singapore national to make his debut this season. Since he began classes at the school in January, the NCAA has been in deliberation over his eligibility to compete collegiately.

That all changed on Sunday when he made his collegiate swimming debut at the Pac-12 Invitational, which is a sanctioned NCAA last-chance qualifying meet for the national championships. There he swam a 1:40.36 in the 200 fly, which ranks him 2nd nationally this season behind only Texas’ Jack Conger.

“We were trying to have him for all of our spring season, I think it’s tough for any kid who has to sit out for any reason, whether it’s academics or injury, or in Zhens case working through the NCAA process to watch teammates race and compete and you can’t,” head coach Dave Durden said. “We’re appreciative of his patience through this and the patience of his family and the sacrifices and the diligence that they’ve put in through this process and a really impressive kid and family with what they’ve gone through over the last 6 months. When you go from thinking you’re going to join the military for the next 4 months and then move around the world, that’s tough for anybody to do.

“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.”

That seals up a spot for him to compete at the NCAA Championships at the end of March, where thanks to B cuts in the 100 fly (46.77) and 100 back (47.05) he’ll have a full complement of individual races to swim.

Quah is a star in his native Singapore, which is the same home country of defending NCAA 100 and 200 fly champion (and Olympic 100 fly champion) Joseph Schooling. At the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, he earned 12 medals. He then finished 22nd in the 100 back, 15th in the 100 fly, and 10th in the 200 fly at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

When he came over, Singapore news outlets reported that the NCAA was mulling the impact of an endorsement deal Quah signed with Liberty Insurance last year and prize money he received for competing in the World Cup. At the time, he said that “there’s a lot of little grey areas we’re trying to figure out with them.”

“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.”

Their ultimate decision was that he would be ineligible until the final day of the season, which gave him one last shot at qualifying.

His personal best times in long course, along with the short course conversions of those swims.

100 Fly 52.08 45.72
200 Fly 1:56.01 1:41.62
100 Back 54.03 45.19

Quah disrupting Schooling and Conger’s 1-2 finish in the 200 fly and also sneaking up to do some damage in the 100 fly and back is Cal’s best chance at upending the two-time defending NCAA team champions from Texas.

“Everybody is chasing Texas,” Durden said. “You have 4 returning gold medalists, and that doesn’t even account for Will Licon, who won 2 individual events last year. Their depth and talent is incredible and they’re going to be hard to beat.”

Quah received a deferment form his compulsory military service in order to train in the United States.


  1. PACFAN says:

    NCAA Champs just got real.

  2. LAX says:

    This guy has sponsorships last year, how is he eligible?

  3. Namo says:

    They should let Michael Andrew swim at Texas. This is such bs

  4. Joe says:

    Lol how did they come up with that decision: “you can only swim on the last day of the year”? I guess it was probably after Cal had to submit their roster for Pac-12s.

    In any case this makes NCAAs potentially even more interesting…

  5. Cal insider says:

    Cal are the patriots of NCAA swimming

    • Peter says:

      By the scummy part, yes. On the greatness in history, well Texas has 12 national championships compared to Cal’s 4… And Texas as a whole is way more “patriotic” than Berkeley.

  6. GrantJ says:

    Can a swimmer who becomes eligibility after the dual and conference championship meet season and only swims at a last chance meet participate in NCAAs? If so, there are a lot of Cal alums about to write “Go Bears!”.

  7. Joe says:

    Also do you have a link to the last chance results?

  8. Seems legit says:

    “Yeah let’s allow this professional athlete to be an amateur – but only at the meet that counts! That seems reasonable.”

  9. bobo gigi says:

    They like butterfly in Singapore.

  10. PKWater says:

    The real story here… base off of that picture Durden doesn’t use a reusable water bottle. What a shame

  11. Person says:

    Well… 200 fly just got a lot more interesting. I don’t think he can get past Schooling or Conger, but Cal getting another guy in the A final with Seliskar could get them a 3rd and 4th place. Plus Michael Thomas could make it too. Cal could certainly challenge this year, but I think they’re somewhat lacking in mid-distance/distance free and breast. Texas is just a little better at covering every event.
    Next year is completely different as Cal scoops up Hoffer and Grieshop while Texas graduates a lot of their key swimmers.

  12. Flybackfree says:

    Go Bears

  13. Uberfan says:

    So many angry Texas “fans” can’t wait to see yall next year when Cal comes into NCAA’s with the top seed in the 100 back again

  14. Confused says:

    Does this kid even go to class?

  15. WET NOODLE says:

    My Grandfather smoked his whole life. I was about 10 years old when my mother said to him, ‘If you ever want to see your grandchildren graduate, you have to stop immediately.’. Tears welled up in his eyes when he realized what exactly was at stake. He gave it up immediately. Three years later he died of lung cancer. It was really sad and destroyed me. My mother said to me- ‘Don’t ever smoke. Please don’t put your family through what your Grandfather put us through.” I agreed. At 28, I have never touched a cigarette. I must say, I feel a very slight sense of regret for never having done it, because the NCAA gave me cancer anyway.

  16. DAN GLEESACK says:

    I didn’t know accepting an endorsement deal was a “grey area” for eligibility in the NCAA.

  17. EPIC says:

    How is he eligible again ???

  18. Cobalt says:

    Imagine if Michael Andrew did swim with the Texas squad? Just the daily competition would be incredible for him. And I bet Eddie Reese would know exactly what to do with him! But obviously Michael and his father have done an amazing job so far
    : )

    • Schwingen My Schlogl says:

      In the fantasy world where he is NCAA eligible, what makes you assume he would choose to swim for Texas?

  19. Joel Lin says:

    I get it that some folks have an issue with international recruits, most notably the Texas loyals, but there have been widespread internationals in NCAA swimming since the 1970s. The ship has also sailed on the NCAA’s view on quasi-pros. Every USA Olympian from Rio with medals was remunerated & returned to NCAA swimming.

    It’s not as if this guy flew in last week & will enroll in a quarterly semester starting this week. He’s attending Cal as a student athlete & nothing written indicates that he’s not committed to both the university & the swim program. I don’t know why we’re even debating this.

    • ct swim fan says:

      I don’t think they can use the money until they run out of or give up their collegiate eligibility.

    • Tom says:

      Simple question; can US born/based swimmer openly accept money to be a brand ambassador and compete as student athlete at NCAA? Should NCAA enforce rules equally the same regardless where the students are coming from?

    • Old Son says:

      I don’t have any inside information but one month of class isn’t any indication. You can change them all to pass fail in April after never having been to class.

      • Joel Lin says:

        It’s been noted he’s majoring in the sciences at Berkeley. That’s about as serious an undergrad academic challenge as there is out there amongst US colleges. He enrolled full time in the January semester (or would it be quarters at Cal, as is the case at Stanford?).

        The suggestion that he’s a one-meet or one season rental is off putting. He didn’t compete earlier this season due only to the waiting for an NCAA determination.

      • juarezbear says:

        That would be at Stanford where you can change grade option or drop class on the final day of the term. Not so at Cal.

        • C\'MON says:

          This is completely untrue, where are you getting this information? I believe the drop date is around mid-quarter. There is just no comparison you can make where Stanford is not academically superior to Cal. The bears major in swimming and take classes about rocks and “interdisciplinary studies.”

  20. KDSwim says:

    Sort of a bummer for either Mark Litherland or Angel Martinez one of whom was likely in…

  21. Marge says:

    Ahhh, the mid-season addition, that may or may not stay beyond a semester. Marsh is so proud.

    • Quah Fan says:

      Do you think he’s gonna go get ready for the draft after NCAAs? Considering he’s majoring in Bio and Chem, he’s probably at Berkeley for the academics too…

      • Marge says:

        I have nothing against the kid. But don’t be surprised if he doesn’t come back. It’s a sketchy practice to bring in athletes mid-semester, a learned Auburn trait. And that is why DD is frowned upon and unlikely to escape Berkeley for Austin (which really pisses off Cal fans, knowing he will want to leave, and that the vast majority of Texas supporters don’t want him).

        • Kenneth says:

          For all those doubting whether he will stay on beyond this season, please remember that he gave up a place in medical school that he had already secured back in Singapore just to go over to Berkeley. Now why would you do that if you don’t intend to be fully committed in achieving success both in the pool and in academics?

          • WaitAMinute says:

            Because he probably would have had to serve his military requirement and didn’t feel like throwing away his swimming career to learn how to blow someone’s brains out with a weapon.

          • iLikePsych says:

            He already had a NS deferment through swimming; it was just a matter of where to train for him

          • SWIMFAN says:

            Heard he still has to serve his military requirement after he complete his studies….it is just a deferment.

          • Kenneth says:

            By the way, medical school students in Singapore already get a disruption from military service until they graduate and thereafter get drafted in to serve as medical officers in the military. Medical school in Singapore is 5 years minimum. So if he had decided to stay in Singapore and train while in medical school he could have, even if he did not attain the deferment request that was already granted to him by the government.

        • Reid says:

          Lol. The Texas donors and alumni would kill to get Durden once Reese retires.

          • swimfanII says:

            As a UT Donor and Texas X parent, I can assure you NO ONE wants DD to succeed Eddie once or if he were to ever retire! DD learned behavior at Auburn has carried over to Cal and would not be acceptable in Austin. I can tell you from first hand knowledge, that this kid from Singapore will be on a plane back to Singapore Sunday or Monday, as is customary for the international ringers that Cal brings in almost every year to swim one or two meets and NC’s and then its back home never to be heard from again.

            The point is that as long as the NCAA continues to condone this behavior, these big time programs such as Cal, Auburn, Florida and Arizona, will continue to use the loop hole to try and bring championships back to their campus’.

            The UT and Eddie Reese legacy, is to do things the right way and require that their student athletes are just that students first and foremost and athletes second. This program raises nothing but fine men and women, that go on after their swimming careers are over to be outstanding members of their communities and give back to society. Eddie & Chris’s program 4 year graduation rate has got to be over 75% and overall rate well into the 90’s; none of these one and done athletes that are brought in last minute to compete for these other programs. This is not to take away from the men and women who are US citizens and follow all the rules and are by definition “Student athletes.

            These coaches and programs that employee these ringers have no place in US collegiate athletics!

          • h2olover says:

            Your comments are simply so ridiculous it must be an attempt to make Texas fans and donors appear moronic, which I am sure is not the case. Name one instance of a Cal swimmer from another country that fits your accusation.

            You have a great swimmer from Singapore and a solid kid from Israel. I assume Eddie thought they would contribute to a winning team. How is that different from foreign born swimmers at Florida, NC State and Auburn?

            I think you need to get back to building that wall to the south, or counting the “millions” of illegal votes cast for Hillary.

          • swimfanII says:

            NCAA’ in Minneapolis in 2011, don’t recall the swimmers names, I’m sure if you look up the Cal rooster from that year you will find 3 or 4 swimmers from Eastern Europe that I’m referring to, that fit this very same scenario. On Sunday afternoon we were in the Minneapolis airport waiting to fly back home to Texas.
            Well we were sitting there up walks 3 or 4 Cal swimmers, the one that sticks out the most to me, was the young man, (Who won the breast stroke races and swam on Cal’ medley relays) if you want to call him that, as I recall he was listed as a 24 year old junior? Any how the Cal team had already departed back to SFO and I spoke to these so called collegiate athletes, who just help Cal win NCAA’s that year.

            Back to my point, I asked them point blank why they were not flying with the team back to Berkley, and they stated “We are going back home, tho Hungary, we are done with school”. Ringer period. They effectively were the difference makers for Cal.

            UT does not do this period, Eddie runs an above board program and his kids are expected to be good students and attend classes and meet all NCAA and team elidgabilty requirements. You’d be hard presssed to find a program with the legacy that Texas has put up over Eddies tenure!

          • AquaTiger says:


            Are you saying they only swim one year and leave, or saying they just swim and don’t study? Maybe these rosters will help point out examples.

            I have friends who swam at Texas during my swimming years. It’s an absolutely top notch program no question about that in my eyes. Just trying to figure out what Cal is doing wrong in your eyes.

          • Braden Keith says:

            I’ll interject some facts here, and leave it to you guys to argue over the judgements that those facts imply:

            1 – the breaststroker you’re referring to is Damir Dugonjic from Slovenia. At the 2011 NCAA Championships, he was about 4 weeks past his 23rd birthday. Texas’ oldest swimmer this year is about 8 weeks past his 25th birthday.
            2 – Damir Dugonjic at that NCAA Championship meet was about 3 months older than Texas breaststroker Scott Spann was at the same meet (February versus May). Dugonjic at that NCAA Championship meet was 2 months older than Texas senior Jim Robertson was that same season. Damir Dugonjic was YOUNGER than Texas senior Bryan Collins was that season. So, Damir Dugonjic, the breaststroker from Cal, would not have been the oldest swimmer on Texas’ team that very same season.
            3 – in Slovenia, General Secondary school (high school) is completed at age 19. So, he was right on pace of his country’s educational system by arriving at Cal when he was 19.
            4 – Cal had 5 Europeans on their roster that season. Martti Aljand and Martin Liivamagi are both from Estonia, Mathias Gydesen is from Denmark, Guy Barnea from Israel and the aforementioned Dugonjic. All 4 of them swam for Cal for 4 seasons, in consecutive years. Gydesen was a Pac-10 All-Academic and CSCAA All-Academic Team selection. Barnea was first team all-academic Pac-10 at least twice. I don’t have information on who graduate or when they graduated, though I believe Damir Dugonjic, your tall breaststroking friend, graduated from Cal in December 2011.
            5 – the next season, Texas’ Jimmy Feigen competed without being enrolled in any classes.

            EDIT – all 5 of those internationals have degrees from Cal.

          • h2olover says:


            Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I live in the bay area and follow both Stanford and Cal swim programs as I know several sons and daughters of friends who have competed for either program. So, I have actually met several of the foreign born athlete’s you referenced and they have to a person been smart, articulate students who where engaged both as students as well as swimmers. I find it very strange that posters like SWIMFANII, Marge and CMon spead lies and innuendo to smear students who chose to enroll and compete at elite academic institutions.

            Anyway, kudos Braden for setting the facts straight. BTW, Damir remains close to the Cal program, and may even be part of Durden’s pro group which includes Nathan, Tom and Natalie.

          • School says:

            The important question is: What happened to SWIMFANII once Braden provided context and rendered their post incorrect and borderline slanderous?

          • Calbearfan says:

            YES. What did happen? Oh I know- tail between legs for making up obvious untruths, reflecting poorly on the program he supports.

  22. KDSwim says:

    So his penalty was to not have to miss classes to attend those piddly dual meets the rest of the team has to attend and make up the missed class work for to keep their grades up.

  23. Embarah says:

    Damn, Conger and Haas should sign with companies too, since it’s apparently not against the rules anymore.

  24. PKWater says:

    Another thing to think about with this is that if he had swam for Cal this past weekend they would have won Pac 12s

    • Votehillary says:

      Yeah and I heard he knows how to dive!

    • MWC says:

      Cal already had one of the best swimmers in the world transfer to their team this year and they still couldn’t win… youre saying they just needed two?

      • caliswimmer says:

        You don’t actually think p12 tournament standings will have ANY bearing at NCAAs, do you? I mean… I assume you follow college swimming…

        • Is dis da fooball? says:

          Pac12 was a completely fair meet this year. Every team brought their entire roster, and other than the ASU guys (mad props to that program), none of the top athletes from any of the schools were shaved or completely tapered. Of course the results don’t affect NCAAs, but it’s a damn good glimpse of what we could see at the big dance, and it was a worthwhile test for Cal to be put in a tough situation that they couldn’t quite overcome this time. They’ll do well at nationals, obviously, but they lost a fair meet at pac 12s, so stop coming up with excuses (Divers, Norman, Zheng) and just start enjoying the awesome racing that is coming up in a few weeks.

          • caliswimmer says:

            You don’t need an excuse for a meet that is ultimately irrelevant . . . no one called it unfair.

          • SCCoach says:

            I doubt Cal was as tapered as the other PAC 12 schools. It was obvious. And I’m a Stanford fan

      • Markster says:

        Matt Josa is far from one of the best in the world. He doesn’t even crack the top 20

  25. xenon says:

    The ncaa’s rule system on money is so weird. Recently, the ncaa suspended some college baseball players for playing fantasy football. It was a league with an entry fee, probably 5-20$.

  26. Swimgeekgirl says:

    I’m guessing there is probably information we don’t know because right now it definitely seems like a direct violation of the amateur rule.

    Could he have agreed to be a spokesman but not actually received any money? Or some case like that.

  27. Lol says:

    So many thumbs up/down on this thread

  28. Ozswim says:

    NCAA should publish their ruling and reasons for transparency and good governance. Does this mean ALL NCAA athletes can now have commercial endorsements and be eligible to compete at NCAA championships? If not , why not?

  29. gator says:

    This is fair. UT and CAL now each have a Singaporean highly-paid stud going into NCAA’s.

  30. swimfan 101 says:

    The article below highlights the swimmers arrangement with Liberty Insurance. It looks very much like a commercial sponsorship arrangement – meaning in return for endorsing their brand he receives monetary compensation (in the high five figures). I don’t think it matters whether its for training expenses – if this is the loop pole in the NCAA rules then you can drive a 16 wheeler through it. This is not a swimmer being supported by their federation but a swimmer being financially supported by a commercial entity.The PAC 12, the university and the NCAA need to come out publicly and explain their rationale for why it isn’t a breach of the amateurism rules, in order to maintain the integrity of the system that they are all responsible for upholding.

    • Rule Book says:

      NCAA rule States that an athlete may receive actual and necessary expenses….to cover development training, coaching, etc. The rule DOES say that expenses must be approved and provided by the appropriate national governing body in the sport or a governing entity. The article posted above says that they were paying his training expenses leading to the Olympics. My guess is that Cal put together a nice case with their legal team clarifying that this was done by the insurance company THROUGH the Singapore Swimming Association. Lots of ‘i’s” being dotted and lots of “t’s” being crossed accounting for every cent that was given to him and if it exceeded his actual and necessary expenses.

      • swimming 101 says:

        Thanks for that information, but two points. One, we are all left guessing which goes to the issue of integrity and transparency. Two, the financial support appears to have come from a commercial entity and not his federation – which may place him outside of the rules.

    • gator says:

      this level of compensation is similar to that which dozens of NCAA swimmers are receiving for travel/training expense compensation through USOC as National Team athletes, in accordance with NCAA rules.

    • NCAA Confused says:

      I just read the article. How can there be an argument that he is not endorsing a product for consideration – i.e., becoming a pro? And American based swimmers can’t appear in a charity calendar in their suit without receiving NCAA sanctions? Something stinks, and it all stems from inconsistent decision making from on top.

  31. School says:

    Anyone have the projected invite list after the last chance meets this weekend?

  32. Calswimfan says:

    I still firmly believe that this won’t change the outcome of this year’s NCAA’s. Texas has to too much depth and their 2nd tier guys are just better. On top of that, I assume they will have a lot of diving points. Maybe they will now win with a 150 pt margin instead of 200.

Leave a Reply

Name will be published. Email address will not. By commenting you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!