KUALA LUMPUR: Thirteen-year-olds Cheng Karmen and Hii Siew Siew are set to break new grounds for Malaysian swimming in the SEA Games in Korat in December.
Karmen and Siew Siew are the youngest swimmers to make the team for the Games scheduled for Dec 6-15.
The 23-member swimming team include Beijing Olympic-bound Daniel Bego, Siow Yi Ting, Khoo Cai Lin and Marellyn Liew.
But as for how the future shapes up for Malaysian in swimming, the best indicators should come from Karmen and Siew Siew.
Karmen trains in Ipoh while Siew Siew is based in Sibu. And both of them dominated the Group 3 (11-12) age-group competitions early this year.
At the SEA Games, Karmen is down to compete in the 100m and 200m backstroke events while Siew Siew is likely to feature in the 200m butterfly.
Karmen was impressive for Malaysia with a six-gold performance in the South-East Asian championships in Singapore in July. She also broke two of the oldest meet records.
Siew Siew won three gold medals in the same championships and in the Malaysian Open in Seremban early last month, she upstaged the older Cai Lin to win the 200m butterfly.
In SEA Games records, the youngest-ever Malaysian swimmer to feature in the series was Sia Wai Yen, who was 14 when she competed in Jakarta in 1997. She failed to win any medal in her debut but went on to claim silver medals in Brunei two years later and took gold in Kuala Lumpur in 2001.
And this is what the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary Edwin Chong said they had in mind when they opted to include Karmen and Siew Siew in the team for the Korat Games.
“As far as I can recall, they will be the two youngest swimmers selected by Malaysia to compete in the SEA Games,” he said.
“They have lots of potential. At their age, they are already clocking times done by 17-year-old swimmers.
“They may not be in contention for a medal in Korat but looking at their progress, they should be challenging for gold in the next SEA Games (in Laos in 2009). If they keep up, they will have no problem to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.”
In reference to most states holding back their juniors from national duty so that their services were available for Sukma (Malaysia Games), Edwin said: “It is always our intention to blood young swimmers but we can only do it if they are interested.”
Selangor's Foo Jian Beng has declined selection for the Korat Games. Jian Beng is the only swimmer who could challenge Daniel in the freestyle and butterfly races and his absence is a blow to the relay team's chances to win the gold.