PETALING JAYA: Swimming sensation Khiew Hoe Yean (pic) is ready to make the 800m freestyle his new pet event.
The 18-year-old backstroke specialist showed he is just as capable in the middle distance freestyle disciplines with a stellar performance at the Malaysian Open last week.
While smashing former Asian Games gold medallist Lim Keng Liat’s 23-year-old record in the 200m backstroke was something expected from Hoe Yean, his record-breaking feat in the 800m freestyle was nothing short of extraordinary.
Swimming alone and competing for the first time in the event did not stop him from logging a creditable 8:06.00, bettering Welson Sim’s 2019 national record of 8:08.77.
Besides making the Olympic Selection Time (OST) of 8:08.54, that effort would place Hoe Yean seventh at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
This achievement augurs well for Hoe Yean in the future as the event is expected to be featured in more major multi-sport Games.
The men’s 800m freestyle was previously only contested at the World Championships, but it had since been included in the 2018 Asiad and is set to make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I already have a number of pet events, so I wouldn’t mind adding the 800m free into the list,” said Hoe Yean.
“I’m very pleased to have set a new national record on my first attempt but rest assured there will be more to come.
“There’s one Vietnamese (Asian Games bronze medallist Nguyen Huy Hoang) who’s really fast, so it’s good to have a superior competitor to look up to and keep myself motivated.”
Apart from the 800m, Welson’s dominance in his two other pet events could be under threat if Hoe Yean keeps trending in the right direction.
Hoe Yean signalled his intention to hunt down Welson’s two national records in the 200m freestyle (1:47.36) and 400m freestyle (3:49.29) by triumphing over the latter last week.
Hoe Yean’s victories came with personal bests of 1:49.38 in the 200m freestyle and 3:51.56 in the 400m freestyle.
He will be keeping his fingers crossed that the Vietnam SEA Games will proceed as scheduled as he is eager to prove himself on the international stage.
In his debut in the Philippines two years ago, Hoe Yean clinched two bronzes medals – in the 200m backstroke and 4x200m freestyle.