Swimming: Canadian's guidance for synchronised swimmers

Canadian consultant and synchronised swimming coach Julie Sauve (left) with Singapore coach Maryna Tsimashenka. Sauve sees "good potential" in the Republic's team.
Canadian consultant and synchronised swimming coach Julie Sauve (left) with Singapore coach Maryna Tsimashenka. Sauve sees "good potential" in the Republic's team.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

They created history last year, winning Singapore's first-ever synchronised swimming gold medal at the biennial SEA Games.

And the synchronised swimming team wants to upgrade their skills and repertoire, turning to guru Julie Sauve as a consultant.

The Canadian, a former competitor, has 37 years of elite coaching experience, notably with the Canadian national team.

Canada has consistently finished in the top six at the Olympic Games, and were ranked fourth for both the duet and team events in the 2012 London Games.

Known for emphasising artistic moves and flair in her athletes, Sauve, 63, is offering advice with regard to high performance and developing the sport in Singapore.

Such a practice is not uncommon in Singapore, with the national swimming team recruiting renowned coach Bill Sweetenham as an adviser in 2007.

Having observed the girls train over the past six days, Sauve told The Straits Times: "I saw the duet (of Debbie Soh and Miya Yong), and they are doing good at the moment. They have a good chance to qualify for the next Olympics."

By capitalising on her expertise, the goal is for the team to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and to close the gap on Asian powers China and Japan.

The Singapore Swimming Association's vice-president (synchronised swimming) Philip Lee said: "Because of the respect she has in the international scene, it will enhance the profile of the team.The girls will also benefit from the knowledge she brings."

This could, however, be a challenge, after seven of the 12-strong team stepped down after last year's SEA Games. Most of the current batch only joined the team after national trials in January.

According to Lee, there is also a lack of support at school level, with the sport only enjoying significant recognition in three schools - Singapore Chinese Girls' School, Methodist Girls' School and the Singapore Sports School.

Team coach Maryna Tsimashenka added: "If we don't have flexibility and support from schools and family, we cannot progress to the next level."

With two major competitions coming up - the SEA Championships in August, and the Asian Swimming Championships in November, preparations for next year's SEA Games in Malaysia are in full swing.

Retaining the gold, however, could be tough, as it is understood that the team technical event has been omitted for next year. The team performed better in the technical event than the free event at last year's SEA Games.

However, Sauve believes good times lie ahead for the team. She said: "They are very young girls. In four years, they can develop very well. They need to learn more technique and choreography, and to be artistic... but they have good potential."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Canadian's guidance for synchronised swimmers'. Subscribe