For the first World Para Swimming World Series to take place in Asia, it was perhaps most apt that Asian swimmers were among the brightest stars on the first day of action at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in Singapore.
Daomin Liu of China claimed the SB6 world record* and a silver medal in the women’s multi-class 100m breaststroke, surprising even herself as she gazed blankly at the scoreboard. After all, having last competed internationally at this level in 2014, the 20-year-old was not sure what to expect.
“I’m quite happy and emotional about my world record. I think I got this result because I was able to execute the techniques and race strategy that my coach taught,” said Liu, who took silver in her event. Her 1:33.36 showing in the final was a strong follow-up from the heats, when she had already clocked an Asian record.
Liu shared the podium with Uzbekistan’s Fotimakhon Amilova, who took gold, and bronze medallist Jessica Long of USA.
“I’ve been working hard all this time, so that I can show my best to the world,” added Liu. “Of course, I have hopes about going to the Paralympics, but I’ll have to see if my performance is up to it, and I’ll have to continue working hard.”
New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe was the other stand-out performer of the night, picking up two gold medals – one of them in world record time.
Barely 10 minutes after she won the women’s 100m backstroke – in an Oceania record time of 1:08.31 – the veteran Paralympic champion was back in the pool for her next event. This time, she laid claim to the women’s 100m freestyle S9 world record in 1:00.36.
“That was a really quick turnaround for me, probably one of the quickest I’ve ever had,” said the 26-year-old. “It was just about getting myself super hyped up, just chuck my headphones on, get into the zone, do a little bit of dancing, got out there and smashed it.
“It was actually the fastest time that I’ve swum in a whole year so I’m super happy, and obviously coming out with a world record really sets me up nicely for four weeks’ time for our nationals back at home.”
Hong Kong’s Yui Lam Chan touched home in 1:07.24 in the women’s 100m butterfly for a new S14 Asian mark. She took silver in the multi-class race, finishing behind Russia’s Valeriia Shabalina. The USA’s Elizabeth Smith also went home with honours, her time of 1:08.54 good for bronze and a new Americas S9 record.
In the men’s 100m freestyle, Malaysia’s Muhammad Nur Syaiful Zulkafly’s 1:16.27 set a new Asian S5 record.
Singapore’s Wei Soong Toh was the winner of the multi-class race, giving the home crowd something to cheer about as he claimed his first World Para Swimming World Series medal.
Said the 21-year-old: “It’s a happy moment for me, but I have to remind myself that this is only the first day of competition, and so I have still a long way ahead of me.
“(It’s) only one thing on a longer journey towards Tokyo 2020. While this is a nice thing to have, it’s not in any way an end point. It’s just one of many stepping stones. It’s just another swim.”
The World Series continues on Saturday, with results available online.
*All world records are subject to ratification by World Para Swimming.