A new era of swimming in Singapore began on Monday as head coach Sergio Lopez conducted his first training session with the just-formed national squad.
The 46-year-old Spaniard, who was responsible for grooming Asian Games gold medallist Joseph Schooling and women's 200m individual medley world record holder Ariana Kukors, was hired by the Singapore Swimming Association last year after former head coach Ian Turner resigned.
Lopez, whose last appointment was the head coach and aquatics director at Bolles School in Florida, was joined by his assistant Gary Tan as the duo put the swimmers through their paces at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Monday night.
Said Lopez, who won a bronze (200m breaststroke) at the 1988 Seoul Olympics: "I'm still getting to know the kids and the most important thing over the next two weeks is to set the system and get to know their schedules and try to set up the plan for March (the Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships) where some of them will have to qualify for the SEA Games."
A total of 23 local swimmers, including the likes of Quah Ting Wen, Roanne Ho, Pang Sheng Jun and Teo Zhen Ren, were selected to form the initial squad. All are carded athletes whose latest results were within 5 per cent of the third-place timings of the 2013 SEA Games - which are used as the qualifying criteria for this year's Games - and were given the nod following discussions between Lopez and Tan.
A second intake of 10 swimmers will be added to this group after the June 5-16 Games on home soil.
The biennial Games will be Lopez's first major assignment and he was looking forward to it. Gesturing around the aquatic centre, he said: "We need to make sure we educate the kids to make this place a home and make sure when the other teams come here they have a sort of fear because this is our place."
Singapore returned from the 2013 Games in Myanmar with 11 gold medals from the pool and Lopez wants to better that mark. He said: "The target is to have more (gold) medals than the last SEA Games."