Swimmer Quah takes leap of faith in US move
Singapore national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen said he is "hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst" in his impending move to the University of California, Berkeley.
The 20-year-old will be leaving for the US to train and study on Thursday (Jan 12), despite the fact that he has not been cleared by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to compete in collegiate competitions.
"I am pretty hopeful and it's looking pretty positive; I am hoping for the best but prepared for the worst," said the two-time Olympian in a media interview on Wednesday.
The NCAA collegiate meets are highly competitive, with Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling once describing it as more intense than the Olympics.
Many top swimmers, including Olympic and world champions, compete for their schools every year, which makes it a good training ground for athletes aiming to be world-class.
A student-athlete's eligibility for NCAA competitions could determine matters such as his place in the school's team, as well as athletic scholarships.
Quah said: "I have been out of school for a while, since I graduated from ACS (Anglo-Chinese School) in 2014; I've trained for the Olympics and I've swum in professional meets such as the Fina World Cup... and the NCAA is about amateurs, so there's little grey areas like these to sort out."
He has visited universities such as Stanford and Auburn, where former Singapore national coach Sergio Lopez is now the head swim coach, but settled on UC Berkeley in November.
He said: "I had to think long and hard about it; a huge reason was the vibe of the team. I wanted to be part of a team that are quick and dynamic."
Also, he said he was attracted by the fact that the men's and women's teams train separately, such that coaches could focus on a smaller number of swimmers, as well as the academic programme there.
Quah, who had secured a place to study medicine at the National University of Singapore, plans to study biology and chemistry in the US, and still aims to become a medical doctor in the future.
Meanwhile, he is aiming to reach at least a final at the Fina World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in July 2017.
The lanky swimmer missed out on a place in the final of the men's 200m fly in Rio, after placing 10th overall in the semi-finals with a time of 1min 56.11sec. He clocked 1:56.01 in the heats.
He said: "I know I could have been in the final; I was slower at night (in the semi-final) than in the morning (heats), and I wasn't trying too hard in the morning.
"That was my biggest takeaway from Rio, to not let nerves overcome you, to be brave and to take the leap.
"It ties back to my decision to go away (to the US). It's a pretty big step and I had to make a lot of sacrifices, but if I want it bad enough, then I should go for it."