Southeast Asian Athletes to Watch at the 2017 FINA World Championships

Southeast Asian Athletes to Watch at the 2017 FINA World Championships

Take your marks. The world’s best aquatic athletes have gathered in Budapest for the 2017 FINA World Championships (July 14-30).

By Hiasa Kyte
Featured photo: FINA Multimedia 


The 2017 FINA World Championships are underway with swimming events kicking off on July 23. Among the competitors is a contingent of swimmers and divers from Southeast Asia. Some need no introduction (paging Joseph Schooling), but others are waiting to make their names on the global stage. Here are the ones to watch.

Preliminary schedule subject to change. Visit Omega’s 2017 FINA World Championships website for updated schedules and results.

Nur Dhabitah Sabri (Malaysia)

 Women’s 3m Springboard (July 21-22)

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Malaysia has emerged as a diving powerhouse in the course of this decade and Cheong Jun Hoong cemented that status when she was crowned the country’s first ever diving world champion on July 19. Cheong also picked up a bronze medal in the synchronized 10m platform with the perennial standard-bearer of Malaysian diving, Pandelela Rinong.

Double SEA Games gold medallist and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Nur Dhabitah Sabri will have the opportunity to add to that tally when she competes in the final of the women’s 3m springboard. A synchronized diving specialist up to this point, Nur Dhabitah finished sixth in the semifinal and is the youngest athlete in the decider. To win gold, she would have to upset defending champion (and reigning Olympic champion) Shi Tingmao of China, but a podium place is a definite possibility.

Nguyen Thi Anh Vien (Vietnam)

Women’s 400m Freestyle (July 23), 200m Individual Medley (July 23-24), 400m Individual Medley (July 30)

If Nguyen Thi Anh Vien’s performance curve is anything to go by, 2017 could be a massive year for the Vietnamese individual medley (IM) ace. Her achievements at the regional level are impressive – she won eight golds at the 2015 SEA Games, setting seven new games records, and continued her success by winning the 400m IM at the 2016 Asian Swimming Championships in Tokyo, breaking the championship record in the process.

Nguyen also had three top-three finishes during the 2015 FINA World Cup season, finished in the top 15 for both the 200m and 400m IMs at the 2015 World Championships and narrowly missed out on a place in the final of the 400m IM at the 2016 Olympics. If she can repeat her Rio time of 4:36.85, a place in the final is almost assured. If she can better it, a historic medal is well within reach.

Quah Zheng Wen (Singapore)

Men’s 100m Backstroke (July 24-25), 200m Butterfly (July 25-26), 200m Backstroke (July 27-28), 100m Butterfly (July 28-29), 50m Backstroke (July 29-30)

Quah Zheng Wen’s achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by Joseph Schooling’s but they are not far behind in magnitude. In fact, he actually beat Schooling to the punch as the first male Singaporean swimmer to reach an Olympic semifinal, making the 200m butterfly semis a day before Schooling got to the same stage in the 100m freestyle. Since then, Quah has been quietly working away, breaking the national record for the 200m backstroke in June. Don’t be surprised if Schooling has to share the limelight sometime soon.

Joseph Schooling (Singapore)

Men’s 50m Butterfly (July 23-24), 200m Butterfly (July 25-26), 100m Freestyle (July 26-27), 100m Butterfly (July 28-29)

It was just two years ago when Joseph Schooling made a statement of intent in Kazan with Singapore’s first ever medal at a FINA World Championships; a bronze in the 100m butterfly. Now an Olympic champion and record holder in the same event, Schooling arrives in Budapest ready to add another chapter to his incredible story by becoming Singapore’s first swimming world champion.

Speaking with The Straits Times, Schooling expressed confidence in winning the 50m and 100m butterfly events, but there’s something else in his crosshairs. He wants Michael Phelps’ 100m butterfly world record. To claim it, the newly minted Milo ambassador will first have to account for a couple of old adversaries – Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and South Africa’s Chad le Clos, who finished behind Schooling and together with Phelps in a triple dead heat for silver in Rio. Stay tuned.

Flying the Flag: ASEAN’s Honourable Mentions: 

Aflah Fadlan Prawira (Indonesia) – Men’s 400m Freestyle (July 23), 1,500m Freestyle (Jul 29-30)

Christian Nikles (Brunei) – Men’s 100m Freestyle (July 26-27), 50m Freestyle (July 28-29)

Hemthon Vitiny (Cambodia) – Women’s 50m Butterfly (July 28-29), 50m Freestyle (July 29-30)

Imelda Ximenes Bello (Timor-Leste) – Women’s 100m Freestyle (July 27-29), 50m Freestyle (Jul 29-30)

Jessie Lacuna (Philippines) – Men’s 400m Freestyle (July 23), 200m Individual Medley (July 26-27)

Le Nguyen Paul (Vietnam) – Men’s 100m Breaststroke (July 23-24), 100m Backstroke (July 24-25), 50m Breaststroke (July 25-26), 200m Backstroke (July 27-28), 50m Backstroke (July 29-30)

Nawapas Pisanuwong (Thailand) – Women’s 100m Breaststroke (July 24-25), 200m Breaststroke (July 27-28)

Santisouk Inthavong (Laos) – Men’s 50m Freestyle (July 28-29), 50m Backstroke (July 29-30)

Catch the action on Hub Sports 2 and 3 (Ch 202 and 203 on StarHub TV).

Hiasa Kyte is a contributor to Straatosphere. From absinthe to zinfandel, Hiasa drinks it all. While he knows his way around grand old whiskies and Bordeaux First Growths, he gets his real kicks trying unheralded booze found on the dusty lower shelves of the alcohol world. 

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