By Patrick Johnston


American Olympic athletics great Carl Lewis once said: “It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.” A sentiment Singapore’s swim team tried to follow after suffering a heart-breaking disqualification on Friday (Sep 29) to cap an emotional, rollercoaster meet at the Asian Games.


The women’s 4 x 100 metre medley relay team were celebrating finishing the final race of the six-day competition in third when the stadium announcer at the HOC Aquatic Sports Arena said the team was being disqualified for a false start by Quah Ting Wen in the final leg. 


“I feel like our emotions were at an all-time high and then came crashing down,” breaststroke specialist Letitia Sim said.


“Going into the race I was so confident, I knew we had it, I knew the lineup was exactly where we needed to be. I guess we just got a little bit too anxious. There is no one to blame, we did literally the best we have ever done and it was a really, really good swim.


“When the scoreboard popped up it was heartbreaking, so heartbreaking. I feel ok, I’ve gone through a lot. I feel awful right now.” 

20230929_swimming_bf_012Letitia Sim swims the second leg of the 4 x 100 metre medley relay at the HOC Aquatic Sports Arena on Friday (Sep 29). (Photo: Sport Singapore / Bryan Foo)


Sim set four national records at this Asian Games, but somehow came away without a medal. Fourth in the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke races, she missed the podium by fractions of a second. Another fourth came in the 4 x 100 mixed medley relay.


Her teammate Jonathan Tan also suffered the pain of multiple fourth place finishes, coming in the men’s 50m freestyle, 4 x 100m freestyle relay, 4 x 200m freestyle relay and alongside Sim in the mixed 4 x 100m relay. He also set two national records along the way.


Even the one medal that Singapore did get at the Hangzhou pool, a silver in the men’s 50m butterfly, was met with frustration by the man who claimed it, Teong Tzen Wei, who really wanted gold and was so close to it.


20230929_swimming_bf_021Quah Ting Wen makes a false start in the fourth and final leg of the 4 x 100 metre medley relay at the HOC Aquatic Sports Arena on Friday (Sep 29). (Photo: Sport Singapore / Bryan Foo)


The team’s head coach Gary Tan was emotional as he tried to sum up the rollercoaster the team had gone through.


“I feel so many emotions right now. The last couple of days have been really tough emotionally. Really emotional for them, and really heart-wrenching. The girls and the whole team came by with so many fourth places that it's painful for us and we just want to get better,” he said.


“I’m very very proud of where we are and how far we’ve come. However we look at it, all these fourth places, it bodes well for all of us. As a nation, it keeps us hungry and it keeps us motivated to get better at the next Asian Games, the next SEA Games, the next Olympic Games. 


“This is a tough pill to swallow but we are really fortunate to be where we are. We came from being in sixth place in most of the events to move up the ranks to fourth place as well. I see it as a positive sign for all of us as well. I can’t ask for more from this team.”

20230925_Swimming Finals_AC-010Jonathan Tan dives in to the pool to start the men's 50 metre freestyle final at the HOC Aquatic Sports Arena on Friday (Sep 29). (Photo: Sport Singapore / Andy Chua)


Despite the disqualification being so fresh, Sim was able to see there was much to take from her and the team’s performances in China.


“We all learn from our experiences, and I think this was a really good learning experience,” she said. “It's just tough, it's tough for all of us as a whole team. 


“We have a lot to work on as a team and we are just going to keep pushing forward. Our eyes are set on Paris (Olympics). It's fully darted and locked in now. This meet has been another step in our progression.


“I think the whole Singapore team has been so supportive, has been there for us and we are just going to have to keep our heads up high.”


The 19th Asian Games are held in Hangzhou, China from 23 September to 8 October 2023. For the latest Team Singapore coverage and news, follow Team Singapore on their social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) or visit the official Team Singapore website.