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Swim sisters aim to create more history at Paris Olympics

Trust, teamwork and fun is the mantra for Singapore’s history-making women’s 4x100m medley relay team as Quah Ting Wen, Quah Jing Wen, Letitia Sim and Levenia Sim attempt to set more milestones for the Republic at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

And judging from their laughter-filled press conference at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on March 6, the swimming sisters are enjoying their moment ahead of the Games, where they are aiming to take their national record to under four minutes and qualify for an Olympic final.

At 31, Ting Wen is the big sister of the team with appearances at the 2008, 2016 and 2020 Games. The others are Olympic debutantes.

She said: “Mutually trusting each other really makes a difference because we are able to come together on the day itself to get the job done. I trust that my sister is taking care of herself, that the Sims are resting and eating well, and doing what they need to do to swim fast.”

On Feb 18, the quartet clocked a national record of four minutes and 2.88 seconds in the heats at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar, to finish ninth and become Singapore’s first relay side to qualify for the Olympics.

Previously, the men’s relay teams were handed universality places to compete in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1996.

The field will be stronger in Paris than in Doha, where Japan and Britain did not compete, but Singapore Aquatics president Mark Chay is confident the team will not be there to make up the numbers.

Citing teamwork as the key for their achievements, Jing Wen also shared how her sister and brother Quah Zheng Wen helped her overcome feelings of inadequacy – the two older Quahs made their Olympic debuts when they were 15 before going on to compete in multiple editions.

The 23-year-old added: “It was hard to be called the third Quah. But both of them did such a good job in helping me grow as a swimmer and teaching me that I am my own person, I don’t need to be compared to them, and I’m on my own journey.”

While Letitia’s journey was no less bumpy, she has handled it with aplomb while living up to her reputation as the life of the party.

Injecting fun into the team, and the press conference, Letitia had the audience in stitches with her whimsical yet insightful responses.

In a bid to become an Olympian, the 21-year-old first started in gymnastics as a kid, moved to golf to “play in the LPGA Tour and make a lot of money” before settling on swimming.

To incredulous looks from her teammates, she said: “I also really want the (Olympic rings) tattoo, but I don’t know if I’m going to get that because I also like my bare skin. To be able to go with a relay team is going to be a lot of fun, there’s going to be a lot of memories made and so, I’m super excited.”

It has not been all fun and games, as in September 2023 they were left devastated at the Hangzhou Asian Games, when their third-placed finish was voided after Ting Wen dived 0.1sec too early during the final changeover. But there was also a silver lining as their time of 4:00.87 showed what they were capable of.

National Training Centre head coach Bradford Dingey shared that the swimmers have also been working on getting quicker to qualify for individual events.

In May, they will travel with men’s 50m freestyle qualifier Jonathan Tan and other Olympic hopefuls to France, Spain and Monaco for a three-week competition and training stint.

Dingey added: “On the medley side of things, you need somebody that can swim the fly, back, breast and free. For the longest time here in Singapore, we were looking for somebody that could swim backstroke.

“This is what makes this relay team special as it’s incredibly difficult to put those pieces together at the exact same time. It doesn’t happen very often, and we are excited to take that opportunity while it’s here.”

On March 6, Singapore Aquatics also announced HotelPlanner as its official accommodation partner.

The two-year deal worth $100,000 will allow Singapore’s aquatics athletes to enjoy favourable accommodation rates when travelling overseas for training camps and competitions.

It will also enable international participants taking part in competitions in Singapore to rely on HotelPlanner’s platforms to plan their accommodation and travel itinerary.