Diving: Singapore divers must believe in Tokyo 2020 goal, says coach Roy

(From left) Swimming head coach Sergio Lopez, water polo head coach Lee Sai Meng, water polo players Darren Lee and Lee Kai Yang, divers Fong Kay Yian and Freida Lim, swimmers Lionel Khoo and Roanne Ho, diving head coach Shannon Roy and synchronised
(From left) Swimming head coach Sergio Lopez, water polo head coach Lee Sai Meng, water polo players Darren Lee and Lee Kai Yang, divers Fong Kay Yian and Freida Lim, swimmers Lionel Khoo and Roanne Ho, diving head coach Shannon Roy and synchronised swimming assistant coach Katsiaryana Kulpo, with Phiten staff at Chevron House.PHOTO: LIM YONG TECK/SINGAPORE SWIMMING ASSOCIATION

The "Road to Rio" might have come to an end for Singapore's divers, but national coach Shannon Roy's eyes are set on boarding the "Train to Tokyo".

For the 39-year-old, who was appointed by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) in January on a two-year contract, believes there is more talent and potential in Singapore than most think.

With adjustments and in time to come, getting a first Singaporean to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is a goal within grasp. The trickier part, said the 1998 Commonwealth Games 3m springboard champion, is getting local divers to believe.

"There's a lot of talent here - a lot more than I had anticipated," the Australian said yesterday in his first media interview since his appointment.

"The challenge is in getting them to believe they are actually that talented and there is potential (in) them, to acknowledge that they can be as good as anyone in the world."

He was speaking on the sidelines of an event announcing sport-health technology company Phiten as the SSA's sports recovery partner. The deal is for three years.

The Japanese company will give the SSA's high-performance athletes across all four disciplines (swimming, diving, synchronised swimming and water polo) $100,000 worth of support in cash and in kind every year.

Roy, who has previously groomed national junior and senior champions in the United States, pointed to Jamaican Yona Knight-Wisdom as someone Singapore divers can look to for inspiration.

Hailing from a country with little to no diving history and standing at 1.87m tall, the 19-year-old made history by winning a silver at last month's Fina Diving World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. He will be Jamaica's first Olympic diver in August.

Said Roy: "It just goes to show anything is possible with hard work, commitment and belief. If we can get Singaporeans to believe they can do the same things, the sky is the limit."

Events like the women's platform holds one of the most possibilities, said Roy, who named SEA Games 10m bronze medallist Freida Lim as one of the "amazing talents" here.

He said: "It's at its ceiling in terms of what new dives can be learnt, so a lot of people are perfecting what exists.

"Freida is probably our No. 1 platform diver, she has a lot of potential. Convincing her she is capable, and as good as her rival Pandelela Rinong in Malaysia (2012 Olympic bronze medallist) - that's a challenge.

"But if she can believe that, then one day it's going to happen."

For someone who has known only one coach - Xu Jie, who left the national set-up last July - it has taken Freida, 18, who won the SEA Games silver with Myra Lee in the 10m synchro, some time to get used to training under someone less familiar.

She said: "It was quite an adjustment when coach Shannon joined us, and it's quite a different style from what I'm used to.

"There is greater belief now... he is trying to get us to believe that we can achieve more than what we think we can."

Said Roy: "We are 41/2 years away from Tokyo, and that's a good amount of time to build training, competition exposure... Tokyo's our next step. Tokyo is the No. 1 goal now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore divers must believe in Tokyo 2020 goal, says coach Roy'. Print Edition | Subscribe