A DEMURE Siow Yi Ting will be out to mark her 10-year tenure as a national swimmer by regaining her status as the top female breaststroke swimmer in South-East Asia.
For a start, the United States-based Yi Ting, who returned home on Wednesday, has set her sights on winning three gold medals in the Laos Games.
The Games officially open on Dec 9 — just two days before her 24th birthday.
Siow Ting made her biggest haul of three gold medals in the biennial series at the 2003 Games in Hanoi. But in Korat in 2007, she won only one gold medal and lost two breaststroke races to Nicolette Teo of Singapore.
She will be competing in four individual events in Vientiane — 100m and 200m breaststroke and 200m and 400m individual medley. And she is ready to go out for a splashing time.
“I am better prepared for these Games than I was two years ago,” said Yi Ting.
“Then, I had taken a four-month break from the sport as I was struggling to balance between swimming and my studies.”
With some coaxing, she resumed training. Although she had only three months of preparation for the Korat Games, she also earned qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympics with her winning time in the 200m breaststroke.
And she has also gained more confidence in herself since resuming training under former coach Jeff Poppell after the Korat Games.
In fact, she said that she chose to pursue a degree at the University of Arkansas because Poppell was the head coach of the women’s swimming team then.
“He was my high school coach and I improved as a swimmer under his care. A good relationship and communication is important between a swimmer and a coach. I get the best coaching and advice from him,” said Yi Ting.
Looking back, Yi Ting said that she had enjoyed her decade-long service to the country as a swimmer.
“There were so many good times for me in swimming since I started competing when I was 14,” she said.
“I remember that I cried openly when I won my first SEA Games gold medal in Kuala Lumour in 2001. It was the country’s first gold in many years. I had seen many top athletes shed tears of joy but it was amazing when I experienced it.”
Thanks to the quality coaching and competitive training condition in the US, Yi Ting also did well in the 200m breaststroke in the Beijing Olympics.
She won her heat in 2:27.80 to shatter her six-year-old national mark of 2:29.21 and just missed out on the top-16 semi-finals in 19th place.
“I cannot believe that I have been that long in the national team. Now, I feel my age because there are so many youngsters in the team,” said Yi Ting.
She has given a thought to slowing down but it would only happen after competing in the Commonwealth Games and Asiad next year. She will decide later whether she would give a shot at the 2012 London Olympics.
“As long as I can swim fast, I will be there to win honours for the country. London is still a long way to go but I will be the first Malaysian woman to feature in four Olympic Games if I make it,” said Yi Ting.“I am also happy to see new and young stars in the breaststroke events. If I leave, there are talent like Christina Loh, who is only 14, and Erika Kong ready to take over. That should be the way to keep the good tradition going in this sport.” STAR