Based on the depth of talent in the men's 200m freestyle, National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan is quietly confident of Singapore's chances of fielding a relay team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Referring to Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and teenagers Darren Chua, Jonathan Tan and Glen Lim, Tan told The Straits Times yesterday: "Those are the five guys who at this point are basically ready to hit it for the 4x200m freestyle relay.
"(Darren, Jonathan and Glen) have come very close to where they need to be, they've come even closer to (Schooling and Quah) over the last year."
The 37-year-old was speaking to ST after the men's 200m final on the second day of the Neo Garden 15th Singapore National Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.
Malaysia's Welson Sim won in 1min 48.86sec ahead of 17-year-old Jonathan (1:49.93) and 19-year-old Darren (1:50.73). Fellow AquaTech swimmer Glen, 17, was fourth in 1:50.80.
Schooling, who represented Chinese Swimming Club, was seventh in 1:53.16 though Tan noted his time was "not a reflection of where (Schooling) is, it is more the phase of training we are in and what he was working towards."
The top 12 teams at next month's Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, will qualify for next year's Olympics.
The Singapore men's 4x200m team were ranked 15th last year, based on the 7:14.15 clocked by Schooling, Quah, Jonathan and the now-retired Danny Yeo in the Asian Games final. They are 0.69sec behind No. 12, the Netherlands.
Tan believes the Republic is "very close" to fielding a relay team for Tokyo, but cautioned: "We don't know (which swimmers other countries are sending) and I don't want to count my chickens too early.
"But our chances are decent and I'm quietly confident that if all things go well, there is an opportunity to make that top 12."
The two-time Olympian has faith the younger swimmers will step up at the world championships.
He added: "(Glen, Darren and Jonathan) have a lot of heart. It's going to be a true test of their mettle."
Jonathan, in his first major Games at last year's Asiad, anchored the 4x200m team to a bronze in a national record in Jakarta.
Of the challenge in Korea, the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student said: "At the Asian Games, I went out too hard and I 'died' at the end of the race. From that, I learnt how to stay calm and my usual routine is just to breathe in and out, stay calm and pray.
"What goes through my head is what my coaches tell me and what I have to do to get the timings I want."
The four fastest Singaporean men in the 200m free this year are Darren (1:48.63), Jonathan (1:48.70), 22-year-old Quah (1:49.57) and Glen (1:49.74).
Yesterday, Schooling led the 200m free until the last turn, and coach Tan said: "He's coming off quite a heavy weights programme. It's part and parcel of his training. It's still not time yet for him to be as super sharp as he needs to be."
Among the Singaporean winners at the championships yesterday were AquaTech's Lionel Khoo (men's 100m breaststroke) and Pang Sheng Jun (men's 400m individual medley); Swimfast Aquatic Club's Christie Chue (women's 100m breast); Aquatic Performance Swim Club's Jamie Koo (women's 50m backstroke) and Singapore Swimming Club's Ashley Lim (400m IM).