Sailing: Singapore system an example for global stage

Kim Andersen, the newly elected president of World Sailing, said Singapore can be "a hub to support other (countries) in the region" and singled out the Republic's successful youth development programme.
Kim Andersen, the newly elected president of World Sailing, said Singapore can be "a hub to support other (countries) in the region" and singled out the Republic's successful youth development programme.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

World sailing chief praises Republic's sailing programme, sees Olympic podium prospects

As far as sailing's world governing body is concerned, Singapore will no doubt soon develop world beaters of its own - while also helping to unearth and groom champions within the region.

World Sailing (WS) president Kim Andersen has given the sport's local model a ringing endorsement, lauding the Republic as an example not just for its neighbours, but even for sailing powerhouses in Europe.

"The way Singapore is developing sailing, the way you're building up your campaigns, is a model for other nations," the Dane told The Straits Times yesterday.

The 59-year-old, who was elected in November last year and represented Denmark at multiple world championships himself, is in town with other WS delegates for the organisation's mid-year meetings.

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Andersen reserved special praise for Singapore's youth development. Given that broadening sailing's reach - in particular attracting more young people to the sport - is a priority for WS, he said there is much that the world organisation itself and other nations can pick up from Singapore's example.

He said: "The whole system, from growing youth programmes, to the programmes in schools, is excellent.

MODEL FOR OTHER NATIONS

I don't see any limits to (Singapore playing a greater role). There are definitely all the qualities and competencies here to do it."

KIM ANDERSEN, president of World Sailing, explaining why Singapore is charting the right course.

"(But) Singapore has the same challenges as everyone else, where you tend to lose sailors when they get to the age of 16 and above."

About 200 students participate across the A, B and C divisions in the annual Schools National championships, competing in four classes. While the Optimist and Byte are youth classes, the Laser Radial and Laser are Olympic classes.

Singapore has also garnered more than 30 world titles in youth classes since 2004.

Andersen added that WS views Singapore as an important partner in helping to develop sailing in Asia. As it is, Singapore already plays a considerable role in the sport on the global stage.

This is the first time Singapore is hosting WS' mid-year meetings, following the federation's annual conference held here in 2005.

The Republic has played host to major regattas, including the Byte World Championships in 2002. The Volvo Ocean Race also dropped anchor in Singapore in 2009 while the Extreme Sailing Series has made stopovers here several times in recent seasons.

More recently, the National Sailing Centre at East Coast was certified Asia's first WS Approved Training Centre, one of just five such centres in the world. These centres help provide training and development programmes for athletes and coaches targeting the world stage.

Noted Andersen: "We see Singapore as a hub to support other (countries) in the region.

"Singapore sailing, under the management of Ben Tan (SingaporeSailing president), has been very constructive and positive in supporting WS.

"I don't see any limits to (Singapore playing a greater role). There are definitely all the qualities and competencies here to do it."

He is confident it is a matter of time before the Republic finds itself on an Olympic podium - even if Asian medallists at the quadrennial Games have been rare.

Only China, Japan and Hong Kong have won sailing medals at the Olympic Games. For the last three Games, China was the only Asian country to win medals, four in total.

Said Andersen: "Sailing is very European-centric, so young sailors have a lot of athletes to look up to. What you see in Asia is a normal development curve.

"You need to break the ice, it's a mental game. You train, but the last thing that is (lacking) is belief - and that's very difficult to get."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2017, with the headline 'S’pore system an example for global stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe