Heartbreak as S'pore women’s 4x100m medley relay swim team disqualified in final
HANGZHOU – In mere seconds, the hoops and hugs of joy turned into scenes of distress as two sets of sisters Levenia and Letitia Sim plus Quah Jing Wen and Ting Wen saw their 4x100m medley relay bronze vanish due to disqualification.
Three of them had their faces in their hands, while a kneeling Ting Wen stared into space in disbelief as the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Park Aquatics Centre announcer broke the bad news and the scoreboard confirmed the ruling.
The margin of error was 0.1sec as anchor Ting Wen jumped too early. She would touch home in 4min 00.87sec behind Japan (3:57.67) and South Korea (4:00.13) but it was Hong Kong (4:01.72) who took third. The Chinese team were also disqualified in the morning heats after a false start from lead-off Wang Xueer.
Letitia, 20, said: “There’s no one to blame. When the scoreboard came up, and I saw our flag at the bottom, my heart was broken to pieces. I feel awful right now because I knew that was such a good swim. This is not the last time I’m swimming this event, and we are just going to push forward.
“These Games have been a huge motivation for me to be better. I’m going to work super hard, I have screenshots of my fourth-place, and I’m ready to go.”
The mishap capped a rough Asian Games for Singapore’s swimmers as they finished fourth in 10 of the 41 events.
A teary national coach Gary Tan had to take a moment to compose himself before he said: “It’s really heart-wrenching... it’s painful for us, and we just want to get better.”
This leaves Teong Tzen Wei’s men’s 50m butterfly silver as the only piece of silverware for Singapore. It is a dip from the two golds, one silver and three bronzes from the 2018 Games in Indonesia, and snapped the Republic’s run of winning at least one gold since 2002.
Tan noted this was a transition period following the absence of Joseph Schooling, who contributed both golds and a relay bronze in 2018, while breaststroke specialist Nicholas Mahabir was also missing through illness.
But there were also positives, as Singapore had 32 finalists in Hangzhou compared to 20 in 2018. Tan’s swimmers managed 14 personal bests and five national records here, not far from the 15 and seven respectively at the last Games.
Tan said: “There is no shame in finishing fourth against some world-class talents from China, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. The times dropping in our relays show our depth and the system is working.
“It is a big transition without Joseph, but we have seen new talent stepping up like Mikkel (Lee), Letitia, Levenia, Tzen Wei and Jonathan Tan. These guys are for the future and we want to take that active approach to make them stay in a sport, and keep them competitive on the biggest stage.”
He had been candid about the gaps as he called out for clubs to help with rejuvenation in some areas.
Sprinters Amanda Lim and Ting Wen are over 30. Schooling has missed the latest Asian, SEA and Commonwealth Games while Quah Zheng Wen has just completed full-time national service.
There was also the packed schedule as the swimmer had the SEA Games in May, the world championships in July before coming here.
Tan said: “We are sending a crop to Berlin in the next few days, and then to Japan, before a training camp for the next world championships in February. We want to send our kids to more competitive environments, and send them to race faster swimmers.”