Swimming: Gary Tan should be next national swimming coach, says Lopez

Sergio Lopez (left) and Gary Tan have worked together for almost 18 months. Under their watch, Singapore bagged a record 23 gold medals at last year's SEA Games.
Sergio Lopez (left) and Gary Tan have worked together for almost 18 months. Under their watch, Singapore bagged a record 23 gold medals at last year's SEA Games.ST FILE PHOTO

Outgoing national swimming coach Lopez gives his assistant ringing endorsement

National swimming coach Sergio Lopez will leave his post after the Olympics in August but he does not believe the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) has to look far for his replacement.

In fact, the man he believes to be the ideal candidate is already involved with the national set-up - assistant coach Gary Tan.

Lopez, a 200m breaststroke bronze medallist at the 1988 Olympics, wrote on Facebook last night: "I also believe in the bottom of my heart that Coach Gary Tan should be the next National Coach.

"I have had the privilege of working alongside Gary Tan from day one I arrived to Singapore and he is what Singapore Swimming needs to keep the local coaches aligned to work for the ultimate gain of Singapore."

He could not be reached for further comment.

A MATTER OF BELIEF

#BELIEVE in what you have and trust your local talent.

SERGIO LOPEZ, national swimming coach, urging the Singapore Swimming Association to be bold and appoint Gary Tan as his successor.

Tan, 34, is a two-time Olympian who retired in 2006 and took up coaching in 2008. He has mentored the likes of top local swimmers Darren Lim and siblings Quah Ting Wen and Zheng Wen, the latter having met the 2016 Olympic 'A' mark in three events.

Hearing such a ringing endorsement from Lopez was a huge boost, Tan told The Straits Times yesterday. He added: "It's nice to know he has such immense faith in me. I've learnt a lot from him over the last 11/2 years and we've been successful with our results.

"If given the opportunity, I definitely want to put my name into the hat. There's no reason why a local coach can't take over."

Lopez, 47, was 16 months into a five-year contract when he announced his departure in a shock move last month. A Spaniard with American citizenship, he spent seven years as head coach and aquatics director at Florida's Bolles School in the United States, where he groomed Joseph Schooling, Singapore's top swimmer.

Lopez will return to the US and join the Auburn University swimming and diving team in Alabama as associate head coach.

Under his guidance, Singapore won a record 23 gold medals at last year's SEA Games, while many in the National Training Centre squad have clocked new personal bests.

Maintaining this momentum will be crucial, noted Tan, who made his international debut in 1996.

He added: "Whoever takes over, the main priority must still be the welfare of the swimmers."

On critics who might point to his relative lack of elite-level expertise, he said: "If you're talking about experience in the local context, I think I have more than enough. Sergio has also empowered me to run a lot of things on my own. I believe I'm ready for this."

The SSA had previously stated that Tan would take over as acting national coach upon Lopez's departure while it forms a committee to hunt for his replacement.

Lopez had no doubt about his successor. He wrote: "#BELIEVE in what you have and trust your local talent...

"#SuccessIsContagious and the swimmers, parents and local coaches are ready and they want to take the next step and Coach Gary Tan is the one that with the help of (high performance manager) Sonya Porter, the SSA, the SSI (Singapore Sports Institute), SportsSG and the swimmers, parents and local coaches can lead #SingaporeSwimming without a doubt to the top."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Gary Tan 'should be next S'pore coach''. Print Edition | Subscribe