PETALING JAYA: Thai-based teenager Wong Fu Kang is on track to become the first Malaysian male breaststroke swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in 16 years.
The 16-year-old Fu Kang has already beaten the Rio Olympic B qualifying mark of 1:02.69 (100m) after clocking 1:02.56 at the Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil late last month.
The Rio Olympic qualifying period for swimming started last month and Fu Kang’s effort made it into the top 100 fastest times this year.
Fu Kang’s time not only saw him shatter former Asian and multiple SEA Games champion Elvin Chia’s 15-year-old national mark of 1:02.59 but also marked him out as a gold medal prospect at the Singapore SEA Games in June.
His time is the fastest in the region by a comfortable margin this year – and better than the Myanmar SEA Games winning time of 1:03.06 set by Radomyos Matjiur of Thailand.
But the lanky Fu Kang, who stands at 1.85m tall, is not contented.
He is aiming to dip under the A qualification time of 1:00.57 at the Olympics, which will make him only the second Malaysian swimmer after former Asian Games gold medallist backstroker Lim Keng Liat to do so.
Elvin was the last male breastroke swimmer from Malaysia to have made it to the Olympics twice – in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
“If I’m not mistaken, Elvin was our last male athlete to swim the breakstroke at the Olympics,” said Fu Kang, who studies and trains at the Phuket International School.
“I hope to be like him. My performance at the Malaysian Open has made it possible for me to get a place but, to be really sure, I will need to go for the ‘A’ time.
“It’s a pretty high target but my goal is to improve from now until the Olympic period ends.”
Fu Kang took up swimming at the age of six and has been swimming competitively since he was nine.
The Johor-born swimmer, who looks up to Olympic champion and world record holder Daniel Gyurta of Hungary, will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events at the SEA Games along with Shaun Yap.
“I want to enjoy the SEA Games experience. I’ll be happy to achieve a good time and, hopefully, get a medal,” said Fu Kang.