Focus back on athletes on eve of Olympics

Sailors Sara Tan (left) and Griselda Khng from Singapore at a practice race on Wednesday in Rio's Guanabara Bay. Sailing events at the Games start on Monday.
Sailors Sara Tan (left) and Griselda Khng from Singapore at a practice race on Wednesday in Rio's Guanabara Bay. Sailing events at the Games start on Monday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

From raised eyebrows over the state of preparations to concerns over the Zika virus and security issues, jeers have rung louder than cheers in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

But after years of toil and a day before the Olympic cauldron is lit for the first time in South America, the attention is - and rightly so - back on what the Games are about: More than 10,000 of the world's finest athletes, who will take centre stage from tomorrow at 32 venues where 28 sports will be contested.

Perennial favourites such as athletics, swimming and gymnastics will continue to be among the most anticipated sports - not least because of the greats who will bow out after the Games.

American Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian in history with 22 medals - 18 of them gold - is swimming in his fifth and last Games. Jamaica's Usain Bolt is also gunning to leave Rio as the "legend" he wants to be known as.

In women's gymnastics, Simone Biles will cement her place in greatness should she add Olympic gold to her haul of three all-around world titles. In swimming, Katie Ledecky of Team USA is eyeing a place in the history books as she aims to win the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events.

But these Games can be just as special for Team Singapore, with 25 athletes competing in seven sports.

Joseph Schooling, despite the weight of the nation's expectation on his broad shoulders, is confident of performing in the pool. The women's table tennis team, led by three-time Olympian Feng Tianwei, is also hoping for a podium finish at a third straight Games.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Focus back on athletes on eve of Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe