17 March 17 The Straits Times by CHUA SIANG YEE
Fuelled by rejection, Singapore swimmer Lionel Khoo stole the show yesterday at the China Life Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships when he wiped almost a second off the national 200m breaststroke record.
Khoo, 21, won with a time of 2min 15.27seconds, eclipsing his previous mark of 2:16.19 set last year at the Asean University Games. It is the first senior record to fall at the ongoing SNAG at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Japan's Taiki Nishio (2:16.28) and Indonesia's Gagarin Nathaniel (2:18.04) rounded up the top three.
It was a reward for Khoo, who kept plugging away despite the disappointment of missing out on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The Singapore Management University student told The Straits Times: "After a disappointing 2016, I was very focused and determined to do well this year.
"(Missing out on Rio) motivated me and helped me set myself up for this year. Failure is part of sport but it's about bouncing back and coming back stronger than before."
He also credited the competitive environment within the National Training Centre (NTC), helmed by NTC head coach Gary Tan.
Khoo said: "We have a really strong breaststroke group in the NTC. It's really competitive and we always want to beat each other.
"Before the race, Gary told me to not be bothered by results and just swim my own race and it helped."
Apart from Khoo, Zachary Ian Tan also lowered the national Under-14 200m breaststroke mark of 2:24.08 when he clocked 2:22.22 in the heats.
The result comes as a boost ahead of the SEA Games in August, where Khoo has his sights locked on a gold medal in the same event.
He finished second with a time of 2:16.66 at the 2015 edition in Singapore, behind Thailand's Radomyos Matjiur (2:14.83).
Khoo said: "I'm aiming for the gold medal and also to finish in the top 16 (in) world championships. There's a bit of time leading up to the meets and there are quite a few things I need to work on.
"But what I hope for is for all breaststroke swimmers in Singapore to improve and be the best in the region."
Next up for Khoo is the 100m breaststroke today, an event which he also holds the national record with a time of 1:02.26.