National swimmers Amanda Liew
Jia Xin (top) and Jeremy Joint
Riong (above) set new national
record and personal best
respectively at the Youth Olympic
Games in Singapore last week.
Pictures: BT/ Amir Amin
When the curtain fell on the Sultanate's athletes at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore on Thursday, we should have all given them a standing ovation for the Singapore outing was a mission accomplished.
Amanda Liew Jia Xin, Jeremy Joint Riong and Maziah Mahusin will not be returning with medals, yet for two of the three so far they have successfully achieved the objectives they had set out to do.
Admittedly, at first there were renewed fears that Brunei's athletes might lack the mental strength to perform abroad, especially since the YOG was no doubt the toughest test to date in their fledging careers.
The three youngsters knew exactly what they were aiming for, to improve on their personal records.
There were no disillusions about medals, at least for the moment, because they knew first they had to beat themselves.
Probably the only blight spot to the contingent's campaign was the disqualification of Maziah in the Girls' 400-metre hurdles on Thursday.
Yet three of five objectives achieved at the inaugural Games is still a good sign for things to come.
It was not surprising when it was the national swim team that came up top again in Singapore, with a new national record to boot in the 50-metre freestyle.
The Sultanate's most prolific swimmer Liew was the first to test the water at the Singapore Sports School, but she failed to make a splash.
The 17-year-old swimmer clocked 36.51 seconds to finish last among seven participants in Heat Two of the Youth Women's 50m breaststroke.
"I didn't think about it, I tried not to. I keep my mind blank when competing," Liew told The Brunei Times, when asked whether the pressure got to her.
Visibly frustrated and disappointed after the event, the Jerudong International School pupil had a point to prove last Thursday and she smashed it home.
Spurred by the presence of her whole family, Liew clocked 28.2s in the Youth Women's 50m freestyle event to set a new national record. It erased her old record of 28.64s which set last year.
However, just like a true champion, it was not enough for her.
"There is still much time for improvement. I'm just looking forward to jumping into the pool again," said Liew, who placed fourth in Heat Five.
Her compatriot Riong found the influx of world-class junior athletes into Singapore as good motivation for self improvement.
Though he did not manage to break the national record, the Katok Sixth Form student claimed two personal records in as many events competed at the Games.
First the 17-year-old swimmer bested his personal 100m butterfly record last Monday. He timed 1:11.27 to shave two seconds off his former best.
Riong repeated the feat in the 50m butterfly on Wednesday. He clocked 30.68s in the Youth Men's 50m butterfly event at the same venue. His previous best time was 31.78s.
"It's not easy (to compete) since the standard here is at an international level. Yet I am adamant to show that we can do it," said Riong.
National swim coach, Eva Wong, was a happy woman after the duo's outing in Singapore. She was left impressed with her disciples, but not with the times recorded at YOG.
"Actually we have swimmers that can match the times set here. Due to the age limit, we were unable to let them participate," said Wong.
Though the YOG features athletes between the age of 14 to 18 years old, for swimming it is limited to 16 to 17 years old for the girls' events and 17 to 18 year olds for the boys.
Therefore to vie for medals, there is much work to be done before the next edition of the Games to be held in Nanjing, China.
Coach Wong will head back to the pool to seek for gifted swimmers aged 13 and 14 years old to prepare for 2014.
The benchmark had already been set for the level of competition offered at the Games.
All the Sultanate has to do is search and train gifted athletes before 2014.
If we are indeed serious to fight for medals at the international stage, the junior edition of the Games is the place to start with.
Yet training should not start three months, six months or even a year prior to the YOG, but now.
Courtesy from Brunei Times