PETALING JAYA: Finally, Malaysia can boast of a swimmer who is of world-class standard.
Youngster Welson Sim is the first Malaysian swimmer to have dipped inside two A qualifying times for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
His national record efforts of 1:47.67 in the 200m freestyle and 3:50.33 in the 400m freestyle at Singapore’s national age-group championships recently are the 15th and 16th fastest times in the world so far.
As such, expectations are high that Welson’s star presence will rub off on the up-and-coming talents competing in the National Age-Group Swimming Championships at the Shah Alam Aquatic Centre on Thursday.
The 18-year-old may have qualified for the Rio Games on merit, but he will still swim in the national age-group meet for Sarawak.
Welson should be in a class of his own in the Open category as his latest times are good enough for him to target a place in the semi-finals in his Olympic debut.
Alex Lim Keng Liat is the only Malaysian to have reached the last 16 in the Olympics so far – in the men’s 100m backstroke in Athens in 2004.
“We want him (Welson) to swim to keep his muscles in good shape,” said Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary Mae Chen.
“What Welson has done shows that it is possible to swim world-class times if you are committed and willing to work hard.
“Welson is talented and pushes himself really hard in training.
“We hope to have more swimmers qualifying for the Olympics.
“We also have a new ranking system where you will earn more opportunities to compete outside if you clock certain times in the targeted meets.”
The national age-group meet and the Malaysian Open (May 5-8) are the designated Olympic qualifying meets at home.
Those eyeing Olympic qualifying spots are breaststroke swimmer Phee Jinq En as well as long distance specialists Khoo Cai Lin and Kevin Yeap.
Jinq En and Cai Lin have achieved B qualifying times in the women’s 100m breaststroke (1:08.99) and 400m freestyle (4:17.79).
They will be motivated to improve on their timings so as to be on board the plane to Rio de Janeiro come August.