Artistic swimming: Singapore's new coach Geraldine Narvaez promises hard work - and fun

Geraldine Narvaez, the new head coach of the Singapore team, observing the artistic swimmers during the clinic at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex yesterday. In particular, she wants to improve their flexibility and acrobacy.
Geraldine Narvaez, the new head coach of the Singapore team, observing the artistic swimmers during the clinic at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex yesterday. In particular, she wants to improve their flexibility and acrobacy.ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Geraldine Narvaez introduces variation in artistic swimming drills as part of 2028 target

The drizzle did not faze her, and the smile never left her face as she paced along the pool side.

As Geraldine Narvaez clapped the beat for her artistic swimmers, she was as particular about sharpness as she was generous with her encouragement for the artistic swimmers in a clinic at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex yesterday, shouting: "One, three, five, seven; one, three, five seven... That's amazing!"

The bubbly 33-year-old is the new Singapore artistic (formerly synchronised) swimming coach, taking over from Belarusian Maryna Tsimashenka. Narvaez, who represented Venezuela from 2002 to 2009, was hired on the recommendation of renowned Canadian coach and Singapore artistic swimming consultant Julie Sauve.

She furthered her coaching education in Canada where she headed Quebec's youth teams and NextGen team from 2016 to 2017.

On a two-year deal, she promised fun for her new charges, but also has her eyes firmly set on helping Singapore artistic swimming qualify for the 2028 Olympics.

Identifying flexibility and acrobacy as areas the team can improve on, she told The Straits Times: "We have a very young group who have a lot of potential physically and mentally.

"They are very intelligent girls and we are preparing new choreography and performances for the next four years at least.

"It is a big challenge... as there have been many rotations in the past few years."

She also promised a new approach, saying: "They have to have fun while they work hard. We will change the way we train, there will be a lot of variations and a nice balanced schedule between sports and school to achieve that.

"We want to keep them for the long term and we want to take care of them because for sure, experience helps because technique and skills are developed over the years."

Debbie Soh, who has five SEA Games gold medals, has already noted the difference after a week of training with Narvaez.

The 20-year-old said: "Our previous coach treated us more like adults, but our new coach treats us more like kids. She is friendlier but also knows where to draw the line.

"We were used to practising choreography more in the water, but now we spend as much time on land drills as we do in water because coach says if we can be sharp and synchronised on land, it will reflect in the pool."

Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy thanked Tsimashenka for her contributions, but as the Singaporeans aim to cement their status as Asean's artistic swimming queens, they have to aim for the next level.

He said: "We used to score in the 60s, and Maryna took us into the 70s and we overtook Malaysia. We are now aiming to get into the 80s, which would bring us nearer the top 15 teams in the world.

"Julie had identified talent pipeline development, especially at the club level, improving our technical capability and gaining muscle mass as key strategies to take us to the next level. We believe Geraldine has the experience and skills to execute these strategies effectively."

SSA artistic swimming vice-president Steve Chew added that they are aiming for a 50 to 100 per cent increase from the current four clubs and a base of 100 artistic swimmers over the next five years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2018, with the headline 'New coach promises hard work - and fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe