ALOR STAR: Sarawak returned with a vengeance to reclaim the national schools swimming championships' overall title after a lapse of two years at the Kedah State Aquatic Centre in Gunung Keriang yesterday.
Sarawak had ruled the pools for a decade before playing second fiddle to Selangor in 2005 and to Perak last year. And they regained the title with a haul of 28-11-15, leaving Selangor (17 golds) and Perak (13) in their wake.
The bulk of Sarawak's gold medals came from three outstanding performers Erika Kong (girls' Under-12), Hii Siew Siew (girls' Under-15) and national swimmer Eric Chang (boys' Under-15). The trio contributed 21 gold medals.
Yesterday, Erika completed her astonishing record of winning all 12 gold medals contested in her category of competition when she anchored the Sarawak quartet to victory in the 4x50m freestyle. Ten of the gold medals were from individual events.
However, it was far from easy for Erika, who had to chase Penang's Christina Loh for much of the final 50m of the race before finishing faster by 0.28 seconds.
Eric, who will compete in the World Championships in Melbourne at the end of the month, had a good workout in Alor Star by delivering seven gold medals for Sarawak.
The previously unknown Hii Siew Siew also made a name for herself by supplying four gold medals, three of them from the butterfly events.
Yesterday, a 2:21.46 finish in the 200m butterfly shattered the previous meet record of 2:25.42 set by Lew Yih Wey last year.
The Sarawak squad's technical chief, Juliana Gan, said: After enjoying a decade of excellence, we lost the overall title to Selangor two years ago. The other states have caught up with us.
But the bitter blow for us came last year when we failed to wrest the title back in Kota Kinabalu. But instead of sitting back, we decided to work harder and our efforts have been rewarded here.
We are back again as the top producers of junior swimming champions in the country. Erika, Eric and Siew Siew delivered the bulk of our gold medals but the entire contingent, from swimmers to the coaches, officials and parents had a big hand in this success.
The task now is to make sure that the overall title remains with Sarawak for another long period. The good news is that the majority of our swimmers here will still be eligible to compete in the MSSM for the next few years.
Unlike those attending centralised training in the other states, the Sarawak swimmers train in five centres Kuching, Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Kapit and also the two sports schools in Bukit jalil and Bandar Penawar.
Besides Siew Siew, the Sarawak boys' Under-12 200m freestyle relay quartet also notched a new meet record on the final day of the competition yesterday. They clocked 1:59.48 to erase the previous record of 2:01.05 set by Penang in 2004.
Perak's Lau Zheng Fong set the third record of the day in the boys' Under-15 200m butterfly.
The 15-year-old clinched his sixth record of the meet, the most by a swimmer in the championships, with a 2:14.04 effort to erase Daniel Bego's 2:14.29 mark set in Kangar three years ago.
A total of 26 meet records were broken in the four-day championships.