Happily in the deep end

Fong Kay Yian on her way to a bronze in the 3m springboard at last month's SEA Games. Steady progress means Singapore divers are now No. 2 in the region.
Fong Kay Yian on her way to a bronze in the 3m springboard at last month's SEA Games. Steady progress means Singapore divers are now No. 2 in the region.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Divers and synchro swimmers can improve further with top-class experience

From being told they were not good enough to represent Singapore at the 2011 SEA Games, to competing at the Fina World Championships in Russia, Singapore's divers have come a long way.

But one can hardly dispute their progress after a haul of five silvers and six bronzes from the last two SEA Games saw the divers establish themselves as the No. 2 nation in South-east Asia, behind Malaysia.

And, with the world's best divers congregating at Kazan's Aquatic Palace for the diving competition, which started yesterday, the trio of Fong Kay Yian, Myra Lee and Freida Lim - making their debuts at the biennial competition - are looking forward to what promises to be a rewarding experience.

Fong, 18, who is taking part in the 3m springboard, said: "It's nice to see that Singapore can now send divers to the world championships to compete with the world's best divers... it means that overall we are actually improving."

The Singapore Sports School graduate, who has one silver and two bronzes from the last two SEA Games, added: "I'm excited to compete with these world-class athletes and learn from them, in terms of how they train, how composed and focused they are, and how they execute their competition routine."

  • FINAWORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: TEAM SINGAPORE

  • DIVING
    3m springboard: Fong Kay Yian
    10m platform: Freida Lim
    10m synchronised platform: Freida Lim, Myra Lee

    SYNCHRONISED SWIMMING
    Teamtechnical: Carolyn Rayna Buckle, Natalie Chen, Stephanie Chen, Gwyneth Goh, Nadine Khor, Shona Lim, Miya Yong, Debbie Soh
    Duet technical: Stephanie Chen, Debbie Soh

The divers qualified after meeting the Singapore Swimming Association's benchmark for individual (within 10 per cent of the 18th best score at Barcelona 2013) and synchronised events (within 10 per cent of the 12th-place mark).

Freida, 17, who has one silver from last month's SEA Games, said: "It's my first time competing with these divers. I've only ever watched them on videos so it's cool to see how they train and dive up close.

"I'm aiming to do my personal bests and at the same time gain experience and learn from this."

Freida is competing in the 10m platform and 10m synchronised platform (partnering Lee).

Singapore's synchronised swimmers, having won the sport's first two SEA Games gold medals last month, are also buoyant ahead of competition in Kazan.

But a string of departures (retirements plus school commitments) following the Games, coupled with the short time between the two meets, means the team will compete only in the duet and team technical events, which start today.

Half the eight-strong squad will also be making their debut at the championships. Captain Stephanie Chen said the competition, held in the home of world powerhouses Russia, will be a good eye-opener.

Added Chen, who is taking part in her third world championships: "What we're aiming for is actually more of exposure and experience at this high-level meet, and to observe how the best teams compete and perform their routine, and how they set up for the highlights of their routine."

The 20-year-old noted: "We've feedback from other coaches that we are improving, and we hope to better our scores from the previous worlds."

Head coach Maryna Tsimashenka said: "It's a good opportunity for the younger girls to learn from the rest of the world as these new swimmers will be representing Singapore at the 2017 SEA Games."

"They have a lot of potential and this competition helps as a stepping stone," she added.

Singapore are also represented by an 11-strong swimming contingent at the world championships, including Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen. The swimming meet starts next Sunday.

FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Diving, mixed sync 10m platform: StarHub Ch201, 7.45pm
Synchronised swimming, Solo technical: Ch202, 10.15pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'HAPPILY IN THE DEEP END'. Print Edition | Subscribe