Swimmer Quah Ting Wen no longer vexed by Spex list omission
National swimmer grateful for return to support programme, but hails lessons learnt from her absence
National swimmer Quah Ting Wen made her return to the roll of elite local athletes on the Sports Excellence Scholarship (spexScholarship) yesterday, but her journey has been quite the roller coaster.
The 28-year-old made the list in 2016 and 2017, but has been absent from it until the announcement of the 76-strong 2021 cohort was made by national sports agency Sport Singapore yesterday.
The spexScholarship, which is in its ninth year, provides enhanced levels of support for elite athletes and para-athletes, with the aim of achieving results at major Games.
Quah, who is aiming to make the Olympic "A" cut in the 50m and 100m freestyle for the July 23 to Aug 8 Tokyo Games, told The New Paper: "I'm happy, relieved (and) honoured to be on the programme again, mostly I'm grateful...
"The difference would be now with the added support, it is one less thing to worry about."
The holder of four long-course individual national records admitted that being left off the spexScholarship in 2018 was a catalyst for an upturn in form.
She said: "I had a very bad year in 2018, I was going through some things. I wasn't swimming well, I wasn't meeting the KPIs (key performance indicators)...
"So it's really understandable why I was dropped. I was disappointed, of course, and I think it really was one of the things that spurred me on to really turn things around in 2019.
"I think I turned it around 180 (degrees) and had a lot better performances and a... stellar year."
In 2019, Quah set national records in the 50m and 100m free and was in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relay, and 4x100m medley relay quartets that rewrote national marks at the SEA Games in the Philippines in December.
SO CLOSE TO OLYMPIC BERTH
Five months earlier, at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, she was part of the 4x200m free relay team - alongside sister Jing Wen, Gan Ching Hwee and Christie Chue - who were an agonising 0.06 seconds away from securing Singapore's first Olympic relay berth since 1996.
So when Quah was again omitted from last year's 79-strong spexScholarship list, it prompted another, albeit different, round of soul searching.
She explained: "I understood why I got dropped in 2018.
"I think when it was difficult for me was at the end of 2019, after I had a pretty good year of racing. I applied for the scholarship again, going into 2020 and what was supposed to be Tokyo.
"I didn't get into the programme at that time, so that was when the whole question of what my value as an athlete to other people (came about), in terms of the numbers, what am I, what does it mean.
"I started questioning a lot of things because, to me, I felt like I had done really well in 2019, my coaches had said the same thing. It was all there in the times and the numbers.
"So, to not get in, it was a big learning experience in understanding that... just because you show results sometimes it doesn't mean one plus one equals two.
"Getting it this time, I'm very grateful... but I don't think it changes the way I value myself as an athlete or as a person. That was one of the things I learnt.
"I don't think it is very good for myself, or even other athletes actually, for their mental, emotional and even physical well-being, to tie themselves and their identities as athletes to these numbers or values or scholarships or titles."
Like Quah - whose siblings Jing Wen and Zheng Wen - are in this year's list, silat exponent Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin is also joining his brother Sheik Ferdous on the roll.
The 2018 world champion, now 23, also made the scholarship list in 2016 and 2017, before he enlisted for national service.
He said: "It helps financially. Of course, the biggest thing is it allows me to focus on the sport... In terms of training, it'll be more frequent and detail-oriented because you have more time.
"Everything else is settled for you, so it's easier to get to where you (want to be)."