Swimming: Train hard, but also smart: former Singapore head coach Ian Turner

Former national swimming coach Ian Turner will be serving as a consultant for the Chinese Swimming Club. The Briton is tipping Joseph Schooling to thrive if the Olympic champion can utilise his time well as a professional swimmer.
Former national swimming coach Ian Turner will be serving as a consultant for the Chinese Swimming Club. The Briton is tipping Joseph Schooling to thrive if the Olympic champion can utilise his time well as a professional swimmer.ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

Ex-swimming coach advocates equipping local trainers with new information, methods

For evidence that Singapore's swimmers are making headway on the international scene, look no further than Joseph Schooling's historic Olympic gold and to a lesser extent, team-mate Quah Zheng Wen's two semi-final appearances at the Rio Games.

"There is no doubt that the general level of swimming in Singapore is on the way up", noted former national coach Ian Turner.

But the Briton, who was also British Swimming head coach for a decade before stepping down in April 2008, stressed that the fraternity here cannot rest on its laurels.

The 66-year-old said: "What has been traditionally the pathway to success to swimming is now outdated... and we owe it to our coaches to give them more knowledge, information and more tools in their box to develop more and more swimmers."

Turner, who suffered from cancer of the tonsils during his two-year stint as Singapore's national coach, returned home in 2014 and became the head coach of the English swimming club City of Lincoln Pentaqua. He stepped down recently and took up a consultant role at the Chinese Swimming Club.

He arrived earlier this week and will remain till the Singapore National Age-Group Swimming Championships in March.

"My first challenge is to upskill the coaches... there will always be the exceptional Joseph Schoolings or Tao Lis no matter which nation you go to, but you have more control of the development of swimmers if the coach has enormous knowledge and information."

For example, he is looking to persuade more coaches to include race-pace training - breaking down race distances into sections and completing them in times that one would normally accomplish in a race - into their sessions.

CEILING SET BY COACHES

There will always be the exceptional Joseph Schoolings or Tao Lis no matter which nation you go to, but you have more control of the development of swimmers if the coach has enormous knowledge and information.

IAN TURNER, former Singapore and British Swimming head coach, on the role coaches can play in honing their charges.

"We are entrenched in the 'harder, faster, further': the more often we train, the better we are going to get, whereas we can train smarter - this is happening around the world in every event," he said.

Turner acknowledged that the Singapore Swimming Association, especially current head coach Stephan Widmer, has been trying to impart knowledge to the coaches here in a structured manner, which "hasn't been embraced as it should be" before.

As for Schooling's bid to defend his 100m butterfly title in Tokyo 2020, Turner said there were many factors at play, including how the 22-year-old adjusts to being a full-time professional swimmer after he graduates this year.

"Joseph worked to get that Olympic gold medal while he was still in university; he worked as hard as those full-time athletes without the studies, and if he can make his spare time useful (in his professional career), time that had been taken up by education, he can flourish."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2018, with the headline 'Train hard, but also smart: Turner'. Print Edition | Subscribe