Gary Tan to take over Singapore swim team

Assistant national swim coach Gary Tan speaking to media at the OCBC Aquatic Centre during a screening of Joseph Schooling’s 100m butterfly race at the Rio Olympics on Aug 13, 2016.
Assistant national swim coach Gary Tan speaking to media at the OCBC Aquatic Centre during a screening of Joseph Schooling’s 100m butterfly race at the Rio Olympics on Aug 13, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Gary is set to be head coach of national training centre squad with others in support

Former national swimming coach Sergio Lopez, who led Singapore to a record 23 golds at the last SEA Games, left a void in the national set-up when he stepped down after August's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

A month on, and the search for his replacement is over.

The Straits Times understands that Gary Tan, currently national assistant coach, will soon be appointed head coach of the national training centre squad and formally take charge of the national swimmers.

Tan, a two-time Olympian, will be supported by technical director Sonya Porter and National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) head swim coach Leonard Tan in the national set-up.

The NYSI works closely with the Singapore Sports School (SSP) and Singapore Sports Institute to drive youth sports as well as support top young athletes from both mainstream schools and the SSP.

It is believed that the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) is also looking to appoint a consulting coach to supervise the overall coaching staff.

GOOD CHOICE

I think Gary and Sonya have both learnt a lot from Sergio, and they will be able to continue what Sergio has left behind.

PANG SHENG JUN, national swimmer, on Gary Tan's likely appointment as Singapore's swimming head coach.

Yesterday, SSA president Lee Kok Choy kept his cards close to his chest, saying: "We'll be announcing something in due time; we're working on the plan and we will come back to you when we are ready.

"We're still working out the details, and we're making good progress."

Lee was speaking on the sidelines of the unveiling of Liberty Insurance as the official insurance partner for next month's Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup presented by Yakult here.

Gary declined to comment.

It is believed that Leonard will help with coaching the junior swimmers, while Porter's main focus is creating and implementing pathways for the long-term development of national swimmers.

This includes potential tie-ups with universities in the United States or hosting foreign swimmers. Jamaica's world championship silver medallist Alia Atkinson and American Kevin Cordes, who won 4x100m medley gold in Rio, are some who have trained with the national team.

Porter has more than 20 years' experience coaching in the United States' National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division 1, including a stint as associate head coach at the University of Alabama.

Tan's appointment will be pleasing for Lopez, who had earlier endorsed the 34-year-old on his Facebook page, saying that he believed "from the bottom of my heart that coach Gary Tan should be the next national coach".

Lopez, now associate head coach of Auburn University's swimming and diving team, also wrote: "He is what Singapore swimming needs to keep the local coaches aligned to work for the ultimate gain of Singapore."

National swimmers told The Straits Times that they are unaware of developments, but would welcome Tan's appointment.

Sprinter Amanda Lim believes that he is in "good shape" to head the squad after gaining valuable coaching experience from Lopez.

"Gary is well-equipped to take over, but I would leave that decision ultimately to the association because I believe they will always make the best decision for us," said the 23-year-old at yesterday's sponsorship announcement at the Singapore Sports Museum's Black Box.

"For me, Gary has always been a part of my training journey so whether he is head coach or not doesn't really matter to me - as long as there's the word 'coach' in front of his name, that's good."

Fellow national swimmer Pang Sheng Jun agreed, adding: "Sergio has left a legacy behind in teaching us how to work as a team and he's also changed our mindset in enabling us to believe we can be the best in the world.

"I think Gary and Sonya have both learnt a lot from Sergio, and they will be able to continue what Sergio has left behind."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Tan to take over S'pore swim team'. Print Edition | Subscribe