BY LIM TEIK HUAT
KUALA LUMPUR: There will be one special guest cheering on Malaysian swimmer Welson Sim as he bid for glory at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games next month.
And it’s none other than the Malaysia’s former king of long distance swimming Jeffrey Ong (pic).
The six-foot tall Jeffrey, a multiple SEA Games gold medallist himself, will be rooting for the 20-year-old Welson to break his (Jeffrey’s) long-standing men’s 1,500m freestyle national record when the swimming competition is held at the National Aquatics Centre in Bukit Jalil from Aug 21-26.
Penang-born Jeffrey clocked 15:23.61 when he earned a silver in the 1,500m freestyle at the World Games in Sheffield, United Kingdom in 1991. And the record still stands.
“It’s been too long. Twenty-six years if I’m not mistaken. I met Welson recently and he is a talented swimmer.
“Age is on his side. I hope he can break my national record and do well at the SEA Games next month. What better way to do that in front of the home crowd, right?.
“I will be there to see him swim and I know the atmosphere will be great,” said Jeffrey, 45.
Welson is the only swimmer with a fighting chance of beating Jeffrey’s national record in the 1,500m freestyle.
The Sarawakian, who already holds the 200m and 400m freestyle national records, clocked a personal best of 15:31.10 in 1,500m freestyle at the Singapore national age-group meet in March.
In his heyday, Jeffrey also ruled the middle and long distance swimming events at the Asian stage.
He was a double gold medallist in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle events in four straight SEA Games from Bangkok 1987 to Singapore 1993.
He also clinched a silver in men’s 200m freestyle in his final SEA Games appearance in Singapore.
Jeffrey also became the first Malaysian male swimmer to make the podium at the Asian Games when he bagged silver in the 1,500m freestyle in Beijing 1990.
He also represented the country at two Olympic Games – in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992.
“Those were exciting days as a swimmer. I was also around Welson’s age when I set the national record,” recalled Jeffrey.
“Nowadays Asian swimmers need to go below 15 minutes or you can forget about making the finals at the world level.
“In my days, that wasn’t the case. In fact, I was the Asian record holder for three years with that time.”
Jeffrey is now involved in a different kind of sport. He is the regional commercial director for PGA Tour.
“I don’t play golf but I have had to learn now that I am in the industry. It’s kind of like a baby learning to swim,” he said in jest.
Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/sport/swimming/2017/07/06/jeffrey-rooting-for-welson-to-break-his-1500m-freestyle-national-record-at-the-kl-games/#YfF5QCkWJlHDr4g4.99