WELSON Sim entered the swimming competition as defending champion. When he left, he had not only been dethroned as the king of the men’s 400m freestyle but also had his Games record wiped off.
Vietnamese teenager Nguyen Huy Hoang bested Welson to clinch the first swimming gold medal at the New Clark City Aquatic Centre last night.
Huy Hoang led after the first lap and held off Welson to power to victory in 3:49.08.
Huy Hoang, who is just 19 but already the Youth Olympic Games champion for 800m freestyle, also smashed the Games record of 3:50.26 set by Welson when he won the event at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
Welson also dipped under the Games record but settled for silver in 3:49.55. Indonesia’s Prawira Aflah got the bronze in 3:52.65.
There had already been a warning of things to come from the talented US-based Vietnamese swimmer when he booked a place in next year’s Tokyo Olympics by winning the 800m freestyle event at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in July.
Welson, who has been preparing for the SEA Games in Melbourne, Australia for the last six months, put up a brave front despite failing in his bid for a third straight gold in the 400m freestyle.
“I’m happy with my time as it’s close to my personal best (3:49.29) but not the colour of medal.
“I knew the Vietnam swimmer would be my biggest rival as he has already qualified for the Olympics.
“Both of us were also nervous as this was the first day.
“Im sorry I could not win the gold tonight but I will come back and defend my 200m freestyle title after this (on Saturday), ” said the 22-year-old Welson, who returned to the pool later to help Malaysia win bronze in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
The other members of the team, who finished in 7:27.55, were Khiew Hoe Yean, Arvin Singh and Keith Lim.
Malaysia’s Daniel Lim finished eighth and last in the men’s 100m breaststroke final in 1:02.86.
James Deiparine ended a 10-year dry spell for Philippines swimming by winning the gold medal in 1:01.46. Vietnam’s Pham Thanh Bao took the silver in 1:01.92 ahead of Lionel Khoo of Singapore (1:01.98).
What do you think of this article?