THE Malaysian swimmers will find it tough to haul in the goods as action gets underway at the National Sports Complex in Vientiane today.
Getting Malaysia off to a roaring start will fall on the shoulders of Siow Yi Ting but it will prove to be a tough proposition as she has to contend with Beijing Olympic finalist Tao Li of Singapore in the women’s 200m individual medley.
The United States-based Yi Ting won the event for her only gold medal in the previous Games in Korat two years ago and the only thing in her favour is that the 200m individual medley is not Tao Li’s strongest event.
Tao Li’s specialty is the 100m butterfly where she made history as the first South-East Asian woman to swim in an Olympic final. But the four-gold medal winner in the Korat Games is nevertheless a formidable rival and it remains to be seen how well tapered Yi Ting is for the challenges in Laos.
The second Malaysian for the women’s 200m individual medley is Erika Kong but she will be in the competition for experience.
Malaysia will find it tough to stamp their mark in the remaining events on the opening day of competition unless they bring down existing Games records.
Chui Lai Kwan will race in the women’s 100m freestyle together with Leung Chii Lin, who holds the national record in the event with a time of 58.02. But the duo are not fancied to win the gold medal, which is expected to go to Singaporean Quah Ting Wen based on her personal best of 55.57 clocked at the Asian Youth Games held in her country in July.
It is the fastest time from a swimmer in the region and the only one who could beat Ting Wen is her team-mate, 16-year-old Amanda Lim.
Cheng Karmen and Chan Kah Yan are the entries for the women’s 200m backstroke but it will be difficult for either of them to retain the gold for Malaysia unless they make a spectacular surge in form.
Lew Yih Wey won the gold for Malaysia in the event in Korat but she has since quit the national squad.
Melvin Chua and Ian James Barr will compete in the 200m backstroke and they are expected to at best challenge for the lesser medals. The men’s and women’s 4x200m freestyle relays are the remaining finals on the night’s programme but national coach Paul Birmingham is not expecting any spectacular finishes.
“We have better individual swimmers. We do not have the depth in the men’s relay squad as we do not have a good fourth swimmer in the 4x100m freestyle,” said the Australian.
“We have no good backstroker and breaststroker for medley and gold is out of our reach.”
Birmingham added that he would be happy to see them swim to their potential.
“This should be the main focus of the swimming squad this time. Only a handful will be contending for the gold and as for the rest, I hope to see them secure personal best times.
“I would love for all these guys to go back with medals. Winning a bronze at the SEA Games level for these youngsters, I think, is nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said.
Our swimmers brought in seven golds in the 2007 Games. This time, the burden falls on Yi Ting and Daniel Bego, who are down for multiple events, to live up to expectations.