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Swimmer Ashley Lim gets SEA Games gold, then Covid-19 before National School Games

SINGAPORE – Touching down at Changi Airport last Friday, national swimmer Ashley Lim returned from the Cambodia SEA Games with more than just a gold medal. All prepped to reap more golds in the pool at the National School Games (NSG), the 18-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 upon her return.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) swimmer had to forego her first event on Tuesday as a result, but fortunately she recovered in time for the penultimate day of the competition, which kicked off on Monday.

She claimed gold in the girls’ A Division 50m backstroke, and helped her team win the silver in the 4x50m medley relay

“I contracted Covid-19 when I came back from Cambodia so I missed my event on Tuesday, if not for that I would have swam the 50m free,” said Lim, who gold in the women’s 4x200m medley relay and silvers in the 400m and 800m freestyle at the Games.

She said she was satisfied with her NSG results as she does not usually compete in sprint races.

She added: “I stepped out of my comfort zone because events with longer distances like the 400m or 800m would give newer swimmers more opportunities to do better and score points for the school.

“This meet has made us grow as swimmers and it remains very special for me after all these years.”

With the NSA swim meet coming just days after the national team’s triumphant outing at the SEA Games – they won a total of 22 golds, 12 silvers and 10 bronzes – many of the young swimmers said they were inspired by their seniors.

Among them was Tedd Chan, 13, who won three events – 50m backstroke, 50m freestyle and the 4x50m medley relay – in the C division.

The second year student at ACS(I) was delighted to see his idol Jonathan Tan qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics in the 50m free at the biennial Games.

Tedd said: “I look at Jonathan’s strokes a lot, especially the way he did the 50m freestyle race. I would like to copy his stroke but its too fast. It’s really hard and needs a lot of training.”

Raffles Institution swimmer Reagan Cheng, 14, also kept a close watch on the national team’s exploits in Cambodia.

Reagan, who trains nine times a week, said: “The Quahs, Nicholas Mahabir, Teong Tzen Wei, Jonathan Tan, Maximillian Ang – these are all the people I look up to and I’m inspired by them to continue swimming and pursue my goals.”

The teenager, who won B Division titles in the 200m back, individual medley and medley relay, hopes to make his SEA Games debut at the 2025 Games in Thailand and qualify for the Olympics eventually.

More than 200 students competed at the OCBC Aquatic Centre throughout an action-packed day that featured 66 races across 11 events. Upbeat music kept the supporters entertained as they cheered on their swimmers in the pool.

Final-year ACS(I) student Gabriel Koo will miss the lively atmosphere of NSG competitions.

The 18-year-old, who won A division 50m and 100m backstroke, said: “I’ll be missing the school spirit, this is one of the meets which is more fun because your whole school is cheering.”

The swimmer, who competed in the 50m backstroke at the 2022 Hanoi Games, did not race in Cambodia as he chose to focus on his studies and he is planning a comeback after completing his national service.

His elder siblings Dylan and Jamie competed for Singapore in the 2017 and 2019 Games respectively, and Gabriel has his eyes set on the 2029 edition on home soil.

He said: “I’ll be the only one in my family to finish on the podium. I definitely want to get a medal then.”