Swimming: Lee Kok Choy to seek third term as SSA chief

Incumbent wants to see out five-year plan to lift Singapore aquatics to be among Asia's top four

Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy is looking to renew his mandate at the national sports association's annual general meeting in June. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - He unveiled an ambitious five-year plan two years ago to propel Singapore to among into the top-four Asian nations in aquatics.

To continue his work, Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) president Lee Kok Choy will be looking to renew his mandate in June at the national sports association's annual general meeting.

"The plan is to try and continue, to make this (plan) happen," the 66-year-old said on the sidelines of SSA's sponsorship renewal with Yakult Singapore last Friday (Jan 26), when asked by The Straits Times if he will stand again in the biennial elections.

Formerly the NSA's secretary-general and vice-president (diving), Lee beat Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua 17-16 in the 2014 elections, and was returned unopposed two years later.

In May 2016, just three months before swimmer Joseph Schooling won Singapore's first Olympic medal gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Lee revealed the association's ambition plan to be among the top aquatic nations in Asia.

Since then, the SSA has unveiled a detailed blueprint for swimming - Swiss-born Australian Stephan Widmer was appointed head coach and performance director, and charged with upgrading the knowledge and skills of local coaches.

Serb Dejan Milakovic has been brought in to helm the men's water polo team, while former men's coach Lee Sai Meng is now the women's head trainer.

Following the changes, the Republic's aquatics squad - swimming, water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and open-water swimming - clinched a bumper haul of 24 gold, 17 silver and 15 bronze medals from at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last year.

Among them, the swimmers accounted for 19 golds - a record for an away SEA Games - while the synchronised swimmers beat hosts and traditional rivals Malaysia to top the discipline with three golds, two silvers and two bronzes.

Lee said: "We have done a review after the SEA Games, which we did very well in, and we are continuing to build the road maps and the plans for each of these different disciplines.

"I think all of them are doing well and making progress to become much better than where we were 18 months ago. But, along the way, we also adjust our plans a little to make sure (so) that we overcome the gaps."

While the retired country manager of Micron Semiconductor Asia thinks that the Republic's swimmers will be among the continent's top four at the Asian Games in Indonesia in August - Schooling is aiming for three golds at the Asiad - he said there is still some way to go for the rest of the disciplines.

"For swimming, China and Japan are ahead of us, but we are in the same mix with South Korea, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong," Lee said.

"Joe is the strongest, (Quah) Zheng Wen is also very strong, but we also want to see if our relay teams have the opportunities to win medals.

"But I don't think the other (disciplines) are ready yet... the others are working towards it (the top-four goal) and it would be a longer-term plan to be a top-four aquatics nation (as a whole)."

It remains to be seen, though, if there will be changes to Lee's team for the elections - secretary-general Oon Jin Teik is now the chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Hub, while vice-president (finance) Jose Raymond reportedly joined the Singapore People's Party, and has been seen at the party's walkabouts.

On possible changes, Lee said: "We will review along the way and decide how best to optimise the resources. Discussions are ongoing."

Correction note: This story was edited for clarity.

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