Swimming: Relay the 2020 message

Local coaches have hailed the addition of Stephan Widmer to chart the national swimmers' progress, with the new head coach and Singapore Swimming Association performance director bringing with him a wealth of experience grooming Australia's swimmers,
Local coaches have hailed the addition of Stephan Widmer to chart the national swimmers' progress, with the new head coach and Singapore Swimming Association performance director bringing with him a wealth of experience grooming Australia's swimmers, including the Beijing 2008 women's 4x100m relay champions.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

New S'pore swim head coach seeks wins at meets as part of plan to land Olympic medals

Stephan Widmer has spent less than two weeks as the new national head coach and performance director at the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) but the Australian already has ambitious plans for the Republic.

Singapore won its first Olympic gold medal in Rio last year but the 50-year-old believes that the country can ride on the momentum to achieve more.

He told the media yesterday: "Tokyo (2020 Olympics) is on my mind right now. How can we set things up today to start moving towards our goal?

"Relays will be very important for Singapore and we hope to win medals there."

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He will fill the void left by former national head coach Sergio Lopez, who stepped down after the Rio Games last year.

Widmer boasts an impressive resume - he was named Australia's swimming coach of the year four times (2005-07, 2009) and has groomed Olympic champions Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper.

His swimmers have set more than 20 world records and won more than 16 world titles.

FOR A RELAY MEDAL IN JAPAN

Tokyo (2020 Olympics) is on my mind right now... Relays will be very important for Singapore and we hope to win medals there.''

STEPHAN WIDMER, Singapore Swimming Association performance director, on his goals for the national squad in the long run.

Widmer cited that statistically, winning the Olympics would require the athletes to have a podium finish at a high level in the preceding year.

Joseph Schooling finished third in the World Championships in 2015 - a year before his gold-medal triumph at the Olympics.

Widmer said: "We need to be more competitive and reach more finals to put ourselves in a better position. The goal is that the team starts with a win and maybe some relays at the Asian Games and then moving on to the Olympics as a nation - a personal run there as well."

The SSA had unveiled its high performance plan in March revealing its focus on getting a relay team to reach a final at the Tokyo Games.

The Republic's men's 4x100m medley quartet were only behind Greece, the slowest qualifiers for the Rio edition.

Apart from his high performance plans, Widmer's other priority will be raising the standard of coaching in Singapore.

SSA's vice-president for swimming Joscelin Yeo described him as "a coach of coaches".

She said: "When he (Widmer) talks about mentoring coaches, he talks about mentoring top-level coaches. I think his experience will bring things together and enable the coaches to be successful."

Widmer's arrival was hailed by national training centre head coach Gary Tan.

The two-time Olympian said: "When he comes in, we can focus on meticulous things we need to do to improve our coaching and how we can develop our swimmers for the long term."

SEA Games multiple gold medallist Roanne Ho - who holds the 50m breaststroke national record of 31.45 seconds - was also excited at the prospect of working with Widmer.

She said: "He has been observing our training sessions and I read some articles saying that he specialises in sprint events. That is exactly what I do and I am excited to work with him in the future.

"I think he will be a really good addition to our team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Relay the 2020 message'. Print Edition | Subscribe