The 47th Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (SNAG) took place at the OCBC Aquatic Center from March 16th to March 20th, where several key performances moved a few swimmers closer to Rio. The meet served as the final qualifying meet for Singaporean swimmers to log FINA A and B cuts for the 2016 Olympics.
When all was said and done over the 5-day affair, still only two Singaporeans have automatically qualified for the 2016 Games – Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen – however, multiple athletes achieved the Olympic “B” standard and now await an invite from FINA.
Key Performers at 2016 SNAG
Micah Lawrence (USA)
American breaststroker Micah Lawrence made an appearance in Singapore, competing in the 50m/100m/200m of her signature stroke. The SwimMAC Elite athlete swept the breaststroke events, topping the podium in each. In the 50m distance, Lawrence registered a time of 31.68, then followed that up with a swift 1:08.00 to take the 100m event. Although out of the world’s top 25, Lawrence’s 1:08.00 is her 3rd-fastest of the season, sitting only behind the 1:07.90 and 1:07.45 times she clocked at Arena Pro Swim Series in Minneapolis last November.
For the 200m breaststroke race, Lawrence touched in 2:28.42 for the win, about 3 seconds slower than the 2:25.89 she scored at the FINA World Cup in Singapore last October. With U.S. Trials not until late June, these races are no doubt tune-up outings for the 25-year-old, to get additional competitions under her belt before the big meet in Omaha.
Kevin Cordes (USA)
Kevin Cordes, who resides in Singapore as his primary training base, mirrored Lawrence with wins across the 100m and 200m breaststroke events. In the former, Cordes took the victory in a time of 1:01.40, while he clinched the 200m win in a mark of 2:14.10. The 50m breaststroke race saw Cordes register a time of 28.14 for 2nd place.
As with Lawrence, Cordes’ times weren’t particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that his season-bests are situated at the 1:00.53 (100m) and the 2:10.63 (200m) he scored at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin.
Lionel Khoo (Singapore)
Although he didn’t register a FINA automatic-qualifying time, 20-year-old Lionel Khoo broke Singapore’s National Record in the men’s 100m breaststroke. Khoo stopped the clock at 1:02.26 to beat the previous record at 1:02.65 by Parker Lam since 2009. Khoo’s mark does fall beneath the FINA B cut of 1:02.69, however, so he may have done enough to set himself up for a Rio roster spot.
Khoo also competed in the 200m breaststroke event at SNAG, where he touched in a time of 2:16.92. Khoo already holds his country’s National Record in the event with his time at 2:16.66, so he was just over .3 of a second over that mark this weekend. However, the B cut stands at 2:16.27, so Khoo didn’t qualify for the longer breaststroke event for Rio.
Phee Jinq En (Malaysia)
Potentially joining teammate Welson Sim in qualifiung for Rio, Malaysian breaststroker Phee Jinq En earned a FINA “B” cut over the weekend. 18-year-old Jinq En earned silver behind Lawrence in the women’s 100m breaststroke event, stopping the clock at 1:08.99. The mark not only crushed her own Malaysian National Record that sat at 1:09.82, but she also dipped beneath the B standard of 1.10.22.
Jinq En will now need to wait until the end of the qualifying period in July to know whether she’s done enough to punch her ticket. Drawing motivation from teammate Sim, who scored an automatic-qualifyng time in the men’s 200m and 400m freestyle races, Jinq En stated, “I didn’t expect to dip below 1:09. I was inspired by Welson’s amazing performance. My aim now is to improve on my personal best time in the next few months.”
Quah Zheng Wen (Singapore)
At 19 years old, Quah Zheng Wen broke 2 meet records in 1 night, further establishing himself as a rising star on the Asian swimming scene. Zheng Wen first broke the 200m IM meet record which he held at 2:03.38 by touching in 2:02.65. Joseph Schooling holds the National Record in 1:59.99, but Zheng Wen’s outing this weekend was swift enough to dip beneath the FINA “B” cut of 2:04.39.
Zheng Wen also earned a meet record in the 100m butterfly event, where he touched in 52.86 to beat his own previous record of 53.42 set last year. The mark doesn’t yet reach the FINA A cut of 52.36, but the Singaporean already accomplished that feat by clocking a 52.25 at last fall’s FINA World Cup, the best time of his young career.
In terms of how he viewed his overall performance at the OCBC Aquatic Center this weekend, Zheng Wen commented, “I hope I can cut more time off my events, my swim tonight isn’t too far off from my best. Looking at my form now I could cut down a little more, and I am gunning for a sub-52 timing in my 100 fly.”
Singapore’s National Head Coach Sergio Lopez is already looking ahead to the task that awaits the National Training Center squad member, saying “He will definitely need rest. After this meet, we will start the final cycle of training before the Olympics. He knows I am going to push him very hard. But he is a competitor, so I am not worried about him.”
Quah Ting Wen (Singapore)
Another Wen sibling, Quah Ting Wen, set a new National Record, this time in the women’s 100m freestyle. Ting Wen touched in an impressive 55.52 to overtake the previous national mark of 55.57 she’s held since all the way back in 2009. As terrific as her swim was, 23-year-old Ting Wen recognizes her outing still fell short of the FINA automatic-qualifying standard of 54.43.
Ting Wen also claimed wins in the women’s 50m butterfly (26.79), 200m freestyle (1:59.75), 50m freestyle (25.54) and 100m butterfly (55.86).
“I think those are pretty good ‘B’ times but I’m still bummed that they’re not ‘A’s,” said the 23-year-old. Normally, I’d be jumping for joy – doing times I haven’t done in a long time – but at this meet, there’s another level and everyone is just so focused on trying to make certain cuts and times. The PBs (personal bests) are almost overshadowed.”