SIXTEEN-year-old schoolgirl Lew Yih Wey produced an electrifying performance to smash her own national record en route to claiming a surprise gold medal for Malaysia in the women's 200m backstroke at the Aquatics Centre in the Sports Centre in Korat last night.
And Siow Yi Ting made it a grand day for Malaysia when she beat the more fancied Singaporen Tao Li in the 200m individual medley and in the process, earned a ticket to the Beijing Olympics.
The bet was not on Yih Wey, considering she had not produced any outstanding results since splashing her way to a nine-gold haul for Negri Sembilan in Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Alor Star last year. She also does not come under the national team programme.
Yih Wey was third behind Thailand's Nimitta Soonthorn and Singapore's Shana Lim after the first 50m. However, the gutsy lass surged past her rivals by the second lap and began to pull away to secure the gold in 2:17.39. Nimitta took silver in 2:20.81 while Shana claimed the bronze in 2:21.43.
Her winning time saw her slashing nearly two seconds off her previous national mark of 2:19.18, set in Sukma, but agonisingly missed out on a place in the Olympics by only 0.01 seconds. The Beijing Olympics B qualifying mark is 2:17.38.
“I still cannot believe I won the gold until I saw my name on the board. I was just hoping to do my best because this was my first SEA Games, said the Port Dickson Secondary School student.
“My condition is not that good this year and this is certainly my best performance of the year.”
Yi Ting also came from behind to regain the gold she last won in Hanoi four years ago. The 22-year-old, who skipped the last Games in Manila due to exams, was nipping just behind Tao Li in the butterfly leg but she overtook the Singaporean by the completion of the backstroke leg.
Yi Ting, who is also from Seremban, pulled away in her favourite stroke – the breaststroke – and completed the final freestyle leg to win the race clocking 2:18.52.
Tao Li, who took gold for Singapore in the 50m butterfly in the Doha Asian Games last year, claimed silver in 2:20.80 while Nimitta fought her way to bronze for Thailand in 2:21.22.
Yi Ting's winning effort in the 200m individual medley was inside the B qualifying mark for the Olympics of 2:19.97.
“I was looking to bag the gold but I was expecting a close race from Tao Li. I'm happy to get a place in the Olympics but I was targeting to do better and make the A cut,” said Yi Ting.
Yi Ting will race in the women's 100m breaststroke but she is not expected to deliver the gold, which is favoured to go to Singapore's Nicollete Teo.
Malaysia had two swimmers Leung Chii Lin and Chan Kah Yan in the women's 100m freestyle final but both finished out of the medals.
There is hope on Daniel Bego to add to Malaysia's gold medal haul when he swims in the 100m freestyle today.
Daniel looked like he has recovered from a bout of fever suffered three days ago after arriving in Korat with an impressive effort to help Malaysia clinch a bronze in the 4x200m freestyle yesterday.
Daniel, a double gold medallist in the 2005 Manila Games, was the third swimmer and put Malaysia in the lead. But Kevin Lim failed to sustain it and finished the race for Malaysia in 7:43.28. Singapore took the gold in 7:38.62 ahead of Thailand (7:43.26).
Besides Daniel, both Cai Lin and Ming Xiu also stand outside chances of grabbing gold in the women's 400m freestyle.