22 March 17 The Straits Times by NICOLE CHIA
Both Singapore's top swimmers, Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, will be entering this week's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Indiana with something to prove.
And the Republic's national training centre head coach Gary Tan believes both Olympians will perform well amid fierce competition at the elite collegiate meet.
Quah, 20, will make his NCAA debut as a University of California, Berkeley freshman.
Said Tan: "I think Zheng has come a long way... I've known him since he was a young kid; he's never shied away from any pressure around him and I think he'll relish the challenge more than anything else.
"I'm interested to see how he stacks up against the other guys, he's the kind of guy who will relish that (challenge)."
While Quah prepares for his NCAA debut, Schooling will be entering his third NCAA meet.
It is the first time the University of Texas undergraduate will compete in the meet as an Olympic champion, and all eyes will be on the Singaporean who beat American Michael Phelps to the 100m butterfly gold in Rio de Janeiro.
NO STRANGER TO PRESSURE
He's never shied away from any pressure around him and I think he'll relish the challenge more than anything else.
GARY TAN, national training centre head coach, on Quah Zheng Wen's prospects on debut at the Indiana meet.
Nevertheless, Tan is sure that Schooling, who is the reigning NCAA 100-yard and 200-yard fly champion, will have little difficulty in rising to the challenge.
"He's a seasoned campaigner and he's had a lot of experience competing at NCAA," said the 34-year-old.
"Jo has the capability to always rise above his expectations, and from what I understand with the recent trip that (Singapore Swimming Association technical director) Sonya Porter and (Singapore Sports Institute biomechanist) Ryan Hodierne made, he's in a good position and looking a lot fitter than before the Olympics."
He's a seasoned campaigner and he's had a lot of experience competing at NCAA.
TAN, on how Joseph Schooling, the reigning NCAA 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly champion, will fare.
Porter and Hodierne had visited Schooling in Austin before he competed at last month's Big-12 Swimming and Diving Championships in the United States.
There, he broke three meet records in as many days - which Tan thinks will be a confidence boost ahead of the NCAA Championships, which begin today.
Apart from defending both his titles, Schooling will also race in the 50-yard freestyle.
He won the event in 18.76sec at last month's Big 12 Conference, which comprises 10 schools from five US states, breaking Jimmy Feigen's eight-year Conference record in the process.
Quah has also made a promising start since leaving for the US in January - he finished the 200-yard butterfly in an NCAA 'A' qualifying time of 1min 40.36sec to post the second-fastest time of the season.
Schooling's team-mate Jack Conger holds the top time of 1:39.17.
While the March 22-25 NCAA meet is not a SEA Games qualifier, Tan emphasised that the Division I Championships, which boast the top swim colleges in the US, will provide valuable racing experience for Schooling and Quah.
"They will be competing with the best guys on the collegiate system and the NCAA is one of the fastest meets in the world," he added.