Swimming priority is to build talent pool

Joseph Schooling (left), Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, chatting with President Tony Tan Keng Yam (right) and SSA president Lee Kok Choy (in white shirt) during the SSA fundraiser dinner.
Joseph Schooling (left), Singapore’s first Olympic gold medalist, chatting with President Tony Tan Keng Yam (right) and SSA president Lee Kok Choy (in white shirt) during the SSA fundraiser dinner. PHOTO: ST FILE

SSA wants to capitalise on Rio momentum as it targets improved coaching, focus on relays

While last year was a historically successful one for Singapore swimming, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) is not resting on its laurels.

Speaking after the association's annual general meeting yesterday, SSA president Lee Kok Choy said the priority going forward was to build on last year's biggest success - Joseph Schooling winning Singapore's first Olympic gold medal in the 100m butterfly at the Rio Games.

"We want to widen the talent pool here, and we're moving on all fronts to make that happen," said Lee.

Aside from Schooling's victory, team-mate Quah Zheng Wen also had a credible showing in Brazil. The 20-year-old made the semi-finals of two of his three events, the 100m and 200m butterfly races.

Lee added: "Yes, (Schooling's win) was a peak, but that kind of peak is very short-lived, and what we want is to create the capability to continue to go for greater peaks."

To this end, Lee said the SSA would be placing increased emphasis on the relay events in swimming, which "makes you have a broader base of talent".

The men's 4x100m medley quartet came close to qualifying for last August's Rio Olympics. They recorded a time of 3min 38.25sec, behind Greece (3:34.41), the slowest qualifiers for the Rio edition.

The SSA has also been working to improve the quality of coaching in the local scene.

LONG-TERM PLAN

We also want to help develop coaches at the learn-to-swim and intermediate levels, and keep young swimmers in the sport for longer.

LEE KOK CHOY, president of the Singapore Swimming Association.

Last month, it appointed Australian Stephan Widmer, Swimming Australia's four-time Coach of the Year, as the new national swimming head coach and performance director.

Said Lee: "We also want to help develop coaches at the learn-to-swim and intermediate levels, and keep young swimmers in the sport for longer."

The focus on improving coaching levels here has not been limited to swimming.

In February, Serbian Dejan Milakovic was appointed the coach of the national water polo men's team, and the change in the coaching programme has made all the difference, said Samson Tan, SSA's vice-president for water polo.

"We've seen a lot of improvement since (Milakovic) came in," said Tan.

"After the SEA Games, we need to carry on the momentum to the Asian Games, where the team is targeting a podium finish."

Earlier this month, the national men's team clinched the bronze medal after a credible showing at the Singapore Water Polo Challenge Cup. They beat a strong University of New South Wales team.

Tan added that plans are in place to hold monthly clinics, starting in October, conducted by coaches from Serbia.

He noted: "The idea is for the Serbians to pass their expertise on, to hold the hands of our local coaches a little bit."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Swimming priority is to build talent pool'. Print Edition | Subscribe