Swim coach bullish about SEA Games

National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan. He was bullish about more young swimmers stepping up to win individual medals at the upcoming SEA Games after the Neo Garden 15th Singapore National Swimming Championships ended yesterday.
National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan. He was bullish about more young swimmers stepping up to win individual medals at the upcoming SEA Games after the Neo Garden 15th Singapore National Swimming Championships ended yesterday.PHOTO: ST FILE

NTC boss Tan optimistic about more youngsters winning medals after outstanding national meet

Quah Jing Wen was Singapore's emerging star in the pool at the 2017 SEA Games, where she won two individual golds and three relay titles as a 16-year-old.

National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan was bullish about more young swimmers stepping up to win individual medals at the Nov 30-Dec 11 edition in the Philippines, after the Neo Garden 15th Singapore National Swimming Championships ended yesterday.

"We're not going to shy away from these challenges, we've got kids with heart who are outstanding," the former national swimmer said, while acknowledging that the other countries always bring out surprises at each Games.

"We're going to make sure we bring that kind of fire and spark in them to really push the boundaries."

Singapore topped the medal table in swimming in Kuala Lumpur 2017 with 19 golds, seven silvers and 11 bronzes, with a team headlined by seniors such as Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen, Quah Ting Wen, Amanda Lim and the now-retired Roanne Ho.

The 37-year-old Tan's optimism was not unfounded, following the the June 19-22 national meet.

Maximillian Ang, 19, clocked 2min 14.32sec in the 200m breaststroke, bettering the 2017 Games winning time of 2:14.35, while Jonathan Tan, 17, equalled the Games winning time (22.55sec) in the 50m freestyle final on Saturday despite being untapered, and Ting Wen, 26, clocked 54.62sec to lower her own 100m free national record.

PUSHING THE LIMITS

We're not going to shy away from these challenges, we've got kids with heart who are outstanding. We're going to make sure we bring that kind of fire and spark in them to really push the boundaries.

GARY TAN , National Training Centre head coach, on his youngsters' ability to excel at the 2019 SEA Games.

Coach Tan was particularly pleased with the emergence of talent in the men's breaststroke, with Ang and Zachary Ian Tan, 16, complementing Lionel Khoo, 24.

He lauded the work that renowned breaststroke coach Jozsef Nagy has done with Ang at the Singapore Sports School.

Of Ang, national head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer said: "His potential goes way beyond 2:14 if he dreams. But he has to dream bigger and he has to learn very fast so that he can be a sub-2:10 swimmer.

"But the coaches can't do the hard work for him; they can deliver the sessions but he has to do them."

Coach Tan said that the clubs have "shaped up well" in grooming their charges in the last six months. Widmer added that "younger swimmers" and their coaches are occasionally invited to train at the NTC.

Widmer said: "It's to keep on spreading what happens in here (at the NTC) and the competition in training that they take back to their clubs, and the coaches are exposed and they take that back to the clubs.

"We need more of that, together working towards better training, faster training, better coaches and that's how the swimming will get faster at competitions."

But coach Tan acknowledged that the team are still "lacking" in areas such as the women's backstroke, adding: "Whether it's something we have to address immediately or in the future, we have to talk about it (as a coaching staff)."

The next test is the Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, next month and he believes it will be tough for his young guns to progress past the semi-final there, with 100m butterfly Olympic champion Schooling perhaps the strongest pick to reach the final.

He said: "For the others, it will be challenging to make the semi-finals. But, again, that will be the first goal: they get the times down."

The top 12 relay teams at the world championships earn a spot at next year's Olympic Games, and he added: "It will be great if we come back with one spot (from) there.

"But it will be tough. Every other nation will be dreaming about that but we want to throw ourselves in the mix and see what comes from that."


S'PORE'S EMERGING SWIMMING TALENT

JONATHAN TAN, 17

Best event in 2019: 50m free

Season best: 22.52

SEA Games 2017 gold: 22.55

Olympic A/B cut: 22.01/ 22.67

GLEN LIM, 17

Best event in 2019: 400m freestyle

Season best: 3:52.64

SEA Games 2017 gold: 3:50.26

Olympic A/B cut: 3:46.78/3:53.58

DARREN CHUA, 19

Best event in 2019: 100m freestyle

Season best: 49.66

SEA Games 2017 gold: 48.93

Olympic A/B cut: 48.57/50.03

MAXIMILLIAN ANG, 19

Best event in 2019: 200m breaststroke

Season best: 2:14.32

SEA Games 2017 gold: 2:14.35

Olympic A/B cut: 2:10.35/2:14.26

GAN CHING HWEE, 15

Best event in 2019: 1,500m freestyle

Season best: 16:33.54

Olympic A/B cut: 16:32.04/17:01.80

CHERLYN YEOH, 17

Best event in 2019: 100m freestyle

Season best: 55.33sec

SEA Games 2017 gold: 55.74

Olympic A/B cut: 54.38/56.01

QUAH JING WEN, 18

SEA Games 2017 gold: Winner of 100m/200m butterfly (59.38/2:12.03)

Olympic A cut: 57.92 (100m fly), 2:08.43 (200m fly)

Olympic B cut: 59.66, 2:12.28

ZACHARY IAN TAN, 16

Best event in 2019: 200m individual medley

Season best: 2:03.57

SEA Games 2017 gold: 2:01.72

Olympic A/B cut: 1:59.67/2:03.26

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 23, 2019, with the headline ' Swim coach bullish about SEA Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe