Cordes will raise the bar

Kevin Cordes is the first under the SSA's Foreign Athlete Sparring Programme. He is training for the world championships and Olympics.
Kevin Cordes is the first under the SSA's Foreign Athlete Sparring Programme. He is training for the world championships and Olympics.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

American drawn to work here with Lopez, will spur local swimmers

STANDING at an impressive 1.96m tall, Kevin Cordes is not just billed as the future of swimming for the stars and stripes but he is also here to be studied by his Singaporean peers.

The 21-year-old breaststroke specialist, who holds American records for the short course 100m (56.88sec), 200m (2min 2.38sec), 100 yards (50.04) and 200 yards (1:48.66), made a big impression at the weekend's Neo Garden 11th Singapore National Swimming Championships, clocking season-bests of 27.54 and 1:00.27 in the 50m and 100m breaststroke long-course events.

ALWAYS ON TOP

When he puts his mind to something, he will go all out for it, to be the best.

- National swimming head coach Sergio Lopez, on Cordes' work ethic and determination

Cordes arrived in the Republic on June 12 for a 13-month training stint alongside the local National Training Centre (NTC) squad, as part of his preparations for the upcoming 2015 Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia, and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

"For 2016, the focus is on trying to win a medal in both breaststroke events and the relay." he told The Straits Times.

Cordes' explosive technique and towering physique have made him a prime example for the Republic's swimmers to follow.

National swimming head coach Sergio Lopez said: "It's a big step for us (Singapore) to have a swimmer of his calibre. When he puts his mind to something, he will go all out for it, to be the best."

The coach also believes a swimmer of such quality will raise the bar for the local swimmers to aspire towards.

"The aim is to raise the level of Singapore swimming. For example, when he was training with the younger swimmers, they just kept looking to go faster, match Kevin stroke for stroke.. these are moments that you cannot teach." he said.

Bob Gambardella, the chief of the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), revealed that the American's diet will be studied.

Gambardella said: "We need to be very strategic, to pick the right athletes who can deliver success so that we can attract the best to come and train here and help our athletes and the sport in this country."

Cordes is the pioneer in the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) Foreign Athlete Sparring Programme, set up by the SSA and SSI to improve the country's standards.

The prospect of working under Lopez, the 1988 Olympics 200m breaststroke bronze medallist, was what lured him over.

The 2013 NCAA Swimmer of the Year, who holds six NCAA swim titles, said: "I got into contact with Sergio through a mutual friend and we just hit it off. It went two ways, he believed in me and I believed in him.

"The fact that Sergio was also a breaststroke specialist really helped because he could really understand what I needed to focus on.

"Right now, I'm working on little details with Sergio, like new strategies to race. A lot of the bigger changes will happen after the worlds when I come back, re-assess and analyse for Rio 2016."

jslow@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'CORDES WILL RAISE THE BAR'. Print Edition | Subscribe