Swimming: SSA ropes in Australia's Widmer for long-term goals

Swiss-born Stephan Widmer has achieved great success in grooming world-class Australian swimmers and wants to develop more top-echelon talent in Singapore.
Swiss-born Stephan Widmer has achieved great success in grooming world-class Australian swimmers and wants to develop more top-echelon talent in Singapore.ST FILE PHOTO

Queensland head coach will take charge of S'pore swimming squad as SEA Games loom

The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) announced yesterday that the highly rated Stephan Widmer will be its new national head coach and performance director and the Australian is looking forward to producing more world-class talent for the Republic.

In a statement, the association said that the 50-year-old's key focus will be the long-term development of athletes and coaches. He succeeds Sergio Lopez, who stepped down after last year's Rio Olympics.

The Swiss-born Widmer said: "I am delighted and honoured to be given this opportunity to become the national head coach of Singapore Swimming.

"I am impressed with the vision and the ambition of Singapore Swimming and I am looking forward to the challenge of grooming more world-class coaches and athletes as Singapore strives to become a top swimming nation."

National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan and SSA technical director Sonya Porter will both report to Widmer. The NTC is essentially the national team.

Tan is keen to work alongside the new man in charge, saying: "He (Widmer) brings a wealth of experience in terms of coaching methodology which would enhance our coaching eco-system here.

"Along with him and Sonya, we will have a unique opportunity to steer Singapore swimming forward in line with our high-performance objectives. I am definitely looking forward to working with Stephan on building a pipeline of world-class coaches and swimmers."

SSA president Lee Kok Choy is pleased with Widmer's decision to join, saying: "We were looking for someone who would be able to achieve the (long-term development) objectives that were laid out and carry on our vision of turning Singapore into a world-class aquatics nation.

"After long discussions with the team, we believed that Widmer's calibre and proven track record in grooming world-class swimmers and coaches would allow us to reach that goal."

Widmer is currently the state head coach of Queensland with Swimming Australia and will start his Singapore stint in July.

One of his first tasks will be to prepare the team for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 19 to 30. At the previous edition in 2015, Lopez led Singapore to a record 23 golds on home ground.

Widmer has an impressive resume. He groomed Australia's Olympic champions Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper. His swimmers have set 20 world records and won 16 world championship titles.

He also won Swimming Australia's Coach of the Year award four times (2005-07, 2009) and he was part of the country's coaching team at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'SSA ropes in Widmer for long-term goals'. Print Edition | Subscribe