Prospects good for SSA despite losing Lopez

SSA president Lee Kok Choy's (front row, third from right) team to stand for re-election at the June 30 AGM includes two fresh faces - Tan Yew Khuan (back row, second from left) and Bervyn Lee (front row, right).
SSA president Lee Kok Choy's (front row, third from right) team to stand for re-election at the June 30 AGM includes two fresh faces - Tan Yew Khuan (back row, second from left) and Bervyn Lee (front row, right).ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The imminent loss of Singapore swimming coach Sergio Lopez is a big blow, but the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) is confident the state of the sport will not slide with his departure.

Lopez, an Olympics bronze medallist,will step down after the Rio Games to take on the role of associate head coach at Auburn University back in the United States.

A Spaniard with American citizenship, he had led Singapore's swimmers to a record 23-gold haul at last year's SEA Games.

Yesterday, SSA secretary-general and former national swimmer Oon Jin Teik said: "Losing Sergio is a big loss for us, there's no doubt about it. Sergio has built incredible teamwork, self-belief, and the understanding (that) each person has the talent to win... we must continue building on this.

"We still have a long way to go (to achieve a world class ecosystem) but things are looking good."

The search for Lopez's replacement is ongoing. While he had backed assistant Gary Tan as his replacement, the SSA would only say it will reveal more details later.

Yesterday, SSA president Lee Kok Choy unveiled his team for the upcoming election of office bearers, to be held at the association's annual general meeting on June 30.

His team includes incumbents Oon, Joscelin Yeo (vice-president, swimming), Samuel Wong (vice-president, water polo), Jerome Lau (assistant secretary-general, water polo), Philip Lee (vice-president, synchronised swimming), William Lee (vice-president, diving) and Jose Raymond (vice-president, finance).

They will stand for re-election for a further two-year term. The team also features two new faces - Tan Yew Khuan and Bervyn Lee - who will run for treasurer and assistant secretary-general (swimming) respectively. They replace Sylvia Peh and Ang Peng Wee, who have reached the eight-year limit.

It is believed the two water polo positions might be contested, but no nomination was received as of yesterday. The deadline for nominations is next Monday.

Pointing to the successful hosting of international events, including the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships, a first for Singapore, Lee said his team deserved an "A" grade for their first term.

Lee said his team has also raised almost $4 million, which will support programmes and events up till 2018. He acknowledged that there are areas for improvement, such as the readiness for major Games, illustrated by the blunder at the 2014 Commonwealth Games when the national swimmers' swim caps were found to be in breach of competition rules.

Lee said: "We've had a lot of highs... But the business is not done yet and that is why we are standing as a team again... to reach our target of creating a world-class ecosystem for the (four disciplines)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Prospects good for SSA despite losing Lopez'. Print Edition | Subscribe