Swimming on right path

New NTC head coach aims for 'repeatable and reliable' success, sees role for clubs too

New Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Brad Dingey aims to build "repeatable and reliable" success, after starting his two-year term on Sept 1.

The position had been vacant since former NTC head coach Gary Tan became the national head coach on Jan 1, and Dingey was selected from a pool of around 20 candidates. He will be supported by assistant coaches Gustavo Schirru and Alex Mordvincev.

The Canadian, 52, has over 20 years of coaching experience and had been the head coach of Swimming Canada's High-Performance Centres in Vancouver and Victoria in separate spells.

Olympic medallists like Hilary Caldwell, Ryan Cochrane, Emily Overholt and Brent Hayden were groomed during his tenure. Dingey's charges also clinched 13 medals - seven of them gold - at the 2017 and 2019 World Junior Championships.

He is looking to replicate similar success here, and make it more sustainable and consistent.

Dingey acknowledged Joseph Schooling's Olympic win in 2016 as a watershed moment, while Teong Tzen Wei's world championship final appearance and silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 also proved that the NTC is capable of developing world-class talents.

The father of two added: "Everybody's goal is to have success that is repeatable and reliable. We definitely have got work to do, but there is a path here and it can be done by people here in Singapore."

While stalwarts like Quah Ting Wen, Amanda Lim and Schooling are in their late 20s or already turned 30, Dingey feels they still have a part to play as Singapore looks to make an impact at the world championships, Asian Games and SEA Games in 2023.

Beyond that, the NTCs need to work on developing swimmers, "whose names people don't know about yet", for the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, and "provide swimmers and coaches the chance to succeed at future major meets".

Dingey said: "From the perspective of high performance, we want swimmers to really fight for that (major meets) spot all the time, and the best way is to continue developing really good athletes to provide that upward push and try to take those spots away from people."

Tan praised the appointment and said: "We are committed to ensure our NTCs are in the best possible position to support our athletes and programmes towards the Olympic Games in 2024 and 2028.

"Brad brings a proven track record of success and expertise in developing high performance swimmers."

SSA's swimming technical director Sonya Porter described Dingey's recruitment as "a critical link in the athlete pathway to develop our next generation of swimmers into senior national team members with podium potential in major Games".

The first NTC was launched in 2015 at the OCBC Aquatic Centre as a strategic talent pipeline aimed at contributing to the success of the national swimming team.

A second NTC, led by Doug Djang at the Singapore Sports School, was opened in 2022. Besides coaching, the NTCs provide swimmers with sports science support from the Singapore Sports Institute and National Youth Sports Institute.

Dingey acknowledged the struggles between the NTCs and clubs, where swimmers typically start out from before being selected by the NTCs, and committed to "open and transparent" communication with clubs and various stakeholders.

He said: "I'm here because I think this country has the opportunity to swim better and I have the ability to try and help. For that to happen, the club programme is going to be a big driver, and we need to have a shared belief and vision.

"If everybody do their jobs really well, there's going to be more than enough accolades for everyone and everybody is going to have the opportunity to be part of those successes."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2022, with the headline Swimming on right path. Subscribe