Brunei Darussalam has been making a series of efforts and initiatives in an attempt to unearth a talented pool of swimmers in recent times to complement the national squad amid their desire to create more milestones and achievements in both the regional and international scene.
With senior swimmers reaching the twilight of their competitive careers, several promising swimmers are rising to the occasion notably evident with their performances in the domestic competitions especially organised by the newly renamed Brunei Darussalam Swimming Association (BDSA) – the country’s swimming governing body.
As swimming meets resumed following the lifting of restrictions, the BDSA – which was previously called Brunei Amateur Swimming Association – organised the Brunei Age Group Swimming Championships (BAG) to provide opportunities for local swimmers.
The country has recently seen the steady progress of young swimmers Hayley Wong, Zeke Chan, Joel Ling and Sharmeen Md Mharvin, who have also been tipped for great success including selection for international meets.
The most improved swimmer in recent times has arguably been Hayley Wong, whose stellar performances in the domestic scene earned him selection in the international scene, particularly the 19th FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary last June.
After returning from the World Championships, Hayley continued to break records including national open records in the 50-metre (m) and 100m butterfly events during the 44th South East Asian Age Group Swimming Championships in Malaysia last December.
It took her another competition during the recently-concluded 8th Brunei Sprints Swimming Championships to eclipse her previous mark and begin her season in 2023 in emphatic fashion.
Hayley said, “I broke the 50m and 100m butterfly events. I’ve been training a bit more than a month after having a competition in December (SEA Age Group in Malaysia). I felt good (about breaking the record) that I still know that I can improve my time.”
The young swimmer – who has been drafted into the national squad – will continue her training ahead of future local and international competitions amid bright prospects of setting a new standard in the sport.
The 15-year-old also shared that training is held six times a week and on alternate days the swimmer does gym work with dry land sessions on other days.
With the trio of Muhammad Isa bin Ahmad, Christian Nikles and Nur Haziq Samil leading the male division in recent years, the country has since welcomed new additions including Joel Ling and Zeke Chan.
In particular, Joel created history after winning the country’s first-ever medal in swimming at the 20th Sukma Games (Malaysia Games) when he struck silver in the 200m backstroke event.
The country’s star made a breakthrough when he clocked a time of 2:12.91s at the Bukit Jalil National Aquatic Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last September.
During the 44th Southeast Asian Group Championships last year, Zeke broke the national open records twice in the 50m and 100m backstroke, with times of 28.59s and 59.68s respectively.
Earlier in June, Zeke broke former swimmer Anderson Lim’s 10-year record in the 200m freestyle event. He also rewrote the age group record in the 100m backstroke event after clocking a time of 1:01.11s at the 17th Singapore National Swimming Championships in June.
The same month also saw Sharmeen from the Brunei Speed Swimming Club winning the Best Girl award – an accolade given for the best female performer – during the 29th Brunei Age Group Swimming Championship.
She received the award in recognition of her performances including collecting a gold medal haul in the 50m and 100m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 50m backstroke and 100m breaststroke events, as well as setting a new championship record in the 200m backstroke with a time of 2:41.28s.
Sharmeen’s recent success this year came in the Brunei Sprints Swimming Championships when she bagged gold in the 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle events.