BIRMINGHAM – He had just clinched a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, but that did little to elicit a reaction from Toh Wei Soong.
The swimmer was his usual calm self after finishing second in 29.01 seconds in the men’s S7 50m freestyle at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre on Monday.
Perhaps the 23-year-old’s subdued reaction was because he just wants to go faster.
“It’s not as fast as I know I can be,” said Toh, whose personal best is the national record of 28.65sec. “I’m not disappointed, I’m not unhappy, but I definitely know this is not the fastest I can be. I can be a lot faster.”
Australia’s Matthew Levy bagged the gold in 28.95sec, while bronze medallist Christian Sadie from South Africa clocked 29.78sec.
While Toh believes he could have been quicker, he noted that it was his first race in Birmingham as there were no heats for the event. He remained pleased with the changes that he has made to his training programme over the last few months and believes these will help him as he works towards the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.
One main change for him is that he has been working closely with physiotherapist Roger Fitzgerald, who has been the physiotherapist for teams like Australia and Singapore at the Olympics. He has been working on the minor details like his breathing and strengthening and is satisfied with his progress.
Toh said: “There are a lot of things I’ve been working towards in the last few months and unfortunately it didn’t come together tonight because if it had, I would’ve gone 28 low so it seems really off but I chalk that up to not having a heat in the morning, going off after a long taper and never having tested all these techniques in a race setting but you can’t overthink it.
“The main thing is, where are you going to go next? We still have a lot of things we can do, I’m very excited to race and refine these techniques because once we come to that, it’s really going to be a breakthrough. If it does, we will see some very great things in Paris.”
The 23-year-old, who made his Paralympics debut last year, had clinched a bronze in the same event at the previous edition of the competition on the Gold Coast.
At the Tokyo Paralympics, he achieved a fourth-place finish in the men’s S7 50m butterfly, just 0.16 second behind bronze medallist Carlos Daniel Serrano Zarate.
Having come so close to winning a medal, Toh is working closely with his coach, former national swimmer Ang Peng Siong, to finish at the podium in Paris.
Ang said: “He needs to build his strength. Although he’s strong with his upper body, there’s still plenty of room for improvement there. The other aspect is to build up his core strength, which he needs to stabilise his arms and legs together.
“I believe these Games are a learning curve for him. Next year world para, then Paris 2024. Having the Games here helps acclimatise what we need to do to prepare for Paris.”
Toh’s medal is Singapore’s third at the Birmingham Games. Earlier on Monday, the women’s table tennis team had won the Republic’s first gold of the Games, while swimmer Teong Tzen Wei claimed Singapore’s first medal in Birmingham on Saturday when he came in second in the men’s 50m fly.