Sailing: Lo and Ng gear up for last chance at earning Olympic berth

The duo are trying to find the wind in their sails as they gear up for the final shot to make it to the Olympics.
The duo are trying to find the wind in their sails as they gear up for the final shot to make it to the Olympics.PHOTOS: KIMBERLY KWEK, ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The past year has been a waiting game for national sailor Ryan Lo and windsurfer Amanda Ng, who have had to bide their time to get their shot at qualifying for this year's Tokyo Olympics after the Asian qualifiers were postponed twice owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, the duo are trying to find the wind in their sails as they gear up for the final shot to make it to the Olympics at the April 1-8 Mussanah Open Championship in Oman.

Women's Laser Radial sailor Victoria Chan will also be competing.

The qualifiers were initially supposed to take place in Abu Dhabi and had been postponed twice from its original date in March last year.

Before it was announced that the Asian qualifiers would take place in Oman, both Lo and Ng were not too concerned because their world rankings placed them in a favourable position to qualify for the July 23-Aug 8 Games.

At world No. 44, Lo is the highest-ranked Asian, while world No. 67 Ng is first among Asian countries that have not yet qualified.

But resting on their laurels was not an option and the duo have found ways to adapt to the ever-changing situation.

After receiving news that the qualifiers had been postponed indefinitely, Laser sailor Lo made the decision head to Lanzarote, a Spanish island, to train.

The 24-year-old said: "I've had good sparring partners and training that have helped me with my sailing techniques and bringing my level up as much as possible. All we could do was just to continue improving."

He has spent much of the last few months in Europe, where he has been training and competing.

In last October's Laser Senior European Championships and Open European Trophy - his first major event since the Laser Standard World Championships in January - he finished 21st.

The field of 126 included event winner Elliot Hanson, Britain's representative for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and Croatia's Olympic silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic.

To qualify for the Olympics, Lo will have to finish top two, with his closest competitors coming in the form of China's Wu Jianan and Zhao Ning, as well as Arthit Mikhail Romanyk, Keerati Bualong and Chusit Punjamala from Thailand.

He will also have to fend off India's contingent of nine.

Lo said: "My main focus has always been the Olympics itself, qualifying is just part of the process.

"That's the ultimate goal and I've been doing what I can to make sure I'm in the best shape to qualify, then at the Games itself."

Unlike Lo, most of Ng's preparations have been in Singapore, making this Olympic campaign very different from her previous one.

Ng, who competed in the women's 470 with Jovina Choo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, saw her plans to go overseas for competitions and training stints last year thrown into disarray because of the coronavirus situation.

Then came the news of the Asian qualifiers' second postponement, which was a blow to Ng, who suffered a brief dip in motivation as she worried about whether the Olympics would even happen.

But the 27-year-old has learnt to see the positive side of things and focus on what she can control.

Training alone with her coach Alistair Masters here instead of with some of the world's best windsurfers at overseas training camps can be challenging because it is hard to track her progress, but Ng has found ways to adjust.

In the lead-up to the upcoming qualifiers, some of the younger sailors have gone out on the water with her to simulate race situations.

She has also been working with a sports psychologist to prepare a race routine to focus on when the qualifiers begin.

On the upside, the delays have also afforded her time to go back to the fundamentals such as practising her manoeuvres and allowed her to focus on recovering from a chronic back and shoulder injury.

In Oman, Ng will have to beat her other three competitors - India's Ishwariya Ganesh, the Philippines' Charizzanne Jewel Napa and Algeria's Amina Berrichi - to book her spot at the Olympics.

Compatriots Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low have already earned Singapore a place in the 49erFX event.

Ng said: "I guess especially in the sport of sailing, you have to be adaptable. That's (the disruption) just training me to be a better sailor.

"It's been a long time since I've raced so definitely feeling very nervous but when I raced against these girls before, I've beaten them before.

"I know it's not impossible, it's doable. I just need to remain focused on what I've improved on, what I've learnt from my stint in Singapore and give it my all."