28 July 17 The Straits Times by JONATHAN WONG&NBSP;IN BUDAPEST
A more aggressive race strategy proved the perfect tonic for Quah Zheng Wen yesterday as he produced his best swim at the world championships in Budapest and rewrote his own national 200m backstroke record in the morning heats.
The 20-year-old clocked 1min 59.49sec - lowering his previous mark of 2:00.45 set at last month's Singapore National Swimming Championships - to win the second heat.
But he finished 24th overall and did not qualify for the semi-finals, in which only the 16 fastest swimmers go through.
Unlike his previous two events in which he had a realistic chance of advancing from the heats, the 200m back was a long shot at best.
The 16th spot was filled by New Zealand's Corey Main, who clocked 1:58.34.
Quah finished 18th in both the 100m back (0.17sec from the 16th-best time) and 200m butterfly (0.05sec).
He said: "After the 200m fly, Sonya (Porter, Singapore Swimming Association's technical director) and I were talking about going a bit harder in the 200s.
"I tried that today. Got to take it harder, be a lot braver and I gave it a go and pretty pleased with my time and a new national record."
Becoming the first Singaporean to crack the 2min barrier in the 200m back was a surprise, he said, considering his lack of competitive racing in the event for some time.
"It's an event I've not raced at a high level since the 2012 London Olympics," he said.
Unexpected as it may be, the performance was a confidence boost ahead of today's 100m fly, an event that features team-mate and reigning Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, who is bidding to add the world title to his resume.
Quah's fastest time in the event is 52.08sec, which he posted at last year's Olympics to secure a semi-final berth. He finished 16th in Brazil.
He reckoned it would take a second personal best in as many days to qualify for the 100m fly semi-finals at the Danube Arena.
He said: "A safe time would be 51.7sec, 51 middle is a safe bet (to progress out of the heats)."
He has yet to reach a semi-final at the world championships after seven attempts. At the 2015 edition in Kazan, Russian, he swam in the 50m back (20th overall), 100m back (21st), 100m freestyle (39th) and 200m butterfly (21st).
Quah said failing to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m fly, his pet event, was a learning experience.
He added: "The 200m fly was on me. It was just bad race planning and a bit too overconfident maybe.
"But think now I've got a good grasp of what I need to do in the morning to make it back at night. Pretty confident about tomorrow and ready to go."
The plan is to be aggressive again from the start of the 100m fly heats, he noted.
"Definitely go all out. At this level of competition, no matter how good you are, you can never really let your guard down," he said. "I'm not at that level where I can sit back and chill so I'll definitely be going hard in the morning."