The swimming hierarchy in Brunei Darussalam has continuously been carrying out several efforts to enhance the development of the sport and received a much-welcomed boost after local competitions were restarted following the easing of COVID-19 measures.
With more and more swimmers learning how to swim through a dedicated grassroots and junior programme, a growing number of coaches and encouraging participation from local clubs in meets, swimming is easily one of the popular sports in the country.
Competitive swimming was not a part of a selected number of sports which was allowed to hold or organise competitions or events at the end of last year when authorities began to ease measures on sports amid the re-opening of indoor and outdoor facilities.
The sport has also been affected on a regional and international level especially as the Sultanate holds significant interest in terms of participation in several overseas meets.
In what was viewed as a big boost for national sports associations to roll out activities and programmes, all sports were allowed organised events or competitions in March this year during a press conference.
The national governing swimming body Brunei Amateur Swimming Association (BASA) hosted the 28th Brunei Age Group Swimming Championships at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex Swimming Pool in early April after more than a year of hiatus.
The three-day competition received favourable response with the participation of 10 swimming clubs and 245 registered swimmers.
The apparent lack of competitions over the past year did not hinder the young athletes as 44 championship records and 18 national age group records were all broken. They also recorded several significant national open record achievements.
Furthermore, nine national open records comprising six individual and three relay records were broken by the national swimming team members under the coaching programme of national swimming coach Wu Na.
Brunei national swimming team member, Hayley Wong, who only turned 13 in May 2021, broke three individual national open records for 200m IM (Individual Medley), 400m IM and 200m breaststroke events over that weekend.
The young swimmer also beat the long-standing 31-year record set by Nuralia Abdul Rahim in 1990 after clocking a time of 2:55.10s. The previous record was 2:55.62s.
Fellow national swimming team member Joel Ling, 15, also broke three individual national open records for 100m backstroke, 200m backstroke and 400m IM events.
Records also tumbled in the relay events as the strong quartet of Hayley Wong, Ashley Chai, Andra Chai and Emma Yusuf combined to set a new women’s 400m freestyle and 400m medley.
The men’s team comprising Joel Ling, Muhammad Isa Ahmad, Christian Nikles and Awangku Md Saifullah bin Pengiran Haji Asmalina were equally successful after breaking old records in the 400m freestyle and medley relay events.
The second and final competition of the year before the country was struck by the second wave of COVID-19 infections was the 5th Brunei Sprints & Masters (Short Course) Swimming Championships at the International School Brunei (ISB) Swimming Pool in Kampong Salambigar last July.
During the two-day competition, 16 national age group records and eight national open records were broken.
Outside the local scene, Brunei national swimmer Nur Haziq Abdul Samil, who has been on a FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) sponsorship, is currently undergoing his development in Thanyapura, Phuket in Thailand. FINA is the world swimming governing body.
Nur Haziq’s training and good work led to national open records for the 400m freestyle event after recording a time of 4:19.75s and setting new national open record in the 800m and 1500m freestyle events with a time of 8:59.42s and 16:44.20s, respectively during the recently-held TSA-AIMG swim event in Bangkok, Thailand.
The emergence of local swimmers suggested promising signs for the country whose hopes is to realise a podium finish in regional tournaments such as the prestigious Southeast Asian Age Group Championships (SEAAG).
While the COVID-19 restrictions have clearly landed another setback in the athletes’ preparations, national swimming coach Wu Na and BASA have been closely monitoring the fitness routine of the national swimmers with set programmes for each day of the week.
As currently organised events or competitions are not allowed, it is certain that the Brunei Inter-school Swimming Championship which has been slated for December 2021 will have to be re-scheduled.