Even before the Aug 18-Sept 2 Asian Games, Singapore's synchronised swimmers have already made history in two ways: By earning the nod to compete there for the first time, and by being a part of Singapore's biggest Asiad contingent.
The eight synchronised swimmers are among 246 athletes from 22 sports who made the first cut to compete at the Games in Jakarta and Palembang.
They were chosen by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) yesterday after the selection committee, chaired by SNOC president and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, met to consider the nominations submitted by the national sports associations (NSAs). Previously, Singapore's largest Asiad contingent was 240 athletes at the 2010 Games.
Apart from synchronised swimming, Singapore athletes from paragliding (Goh See Fen) and ju-jitsu (Calvin Chua, Audrey Kua and Ivan Chua) will also make their Asian Games debuts. The latter two sports are featuring at the Games for the first time.
Athletes who have not met the qualifying mark have till June 15 to meet the selection criteria of a sixth-placed finish at the Asian level. New results which have clearly met the sixth placing of the 2014 Asian Games will be considered by the SNOC.
The synchronised swimmers earned the nod after their performances at last year's SEA Games and at the Fina Artistic Swimming World Series Japan Open last month. Singapore were the top performers in the sport at the SEA Games with three gold, two silver and two bronze medals, and finished fifth in the team free event at the Japan Open.
Steve Chew, Singapore Swimming Association vice-president (synchronised swimming), said: "With this significant milestone, the sport has proven that with a lot of hard work and dedication, we can do well at the international level.
Our young team of athletes are mainly (from) the ages of 15 to 20. The experience will inspire them and future (generations) ... to achieve greater heights.
STEVE CHEW , SSA vice-president (synchronised swimming), on what the selection means for the girls.
"Our young team of athletes are mainly (from) the ages of 15 to 20. The experience will inspire them and future (generations)... to achieve greater heights."
SEA Games gold medallist Debbie Soh, a former recipient of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship, is relishing the chance to gauge her team's standard against that of their Asian counterparts.
"It's a new target for our team to meet, and we would gladly accept this challenge to help us grow more as a team, and to keep improving the standard of (synchronised swimming) in Singapore," said the 20-year-old, whose team-mates Posh Soh, Vivien Tai and Rachel Thean are current recipients of the SOF-Peter Lim Scholarship.
"We always strive to do our best and improve our scores from previous competitions and training."
At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, Singapore's 223 athletes won five golds, six silvers and 14 bronzes.
SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan said: "Our athletes have made some breakthroughs at the major Games in recent times. With the largest contingent to the Asian Games, we hope to see more inspiring and credible performances by Team Singapore in Indonesia.
"We hope to see more NSAs and athletes coming forward with substantial results to qualify before the appeal deadline of June 15. In the meantime, we wish all NSAs and athletes who are preparing for the Games all the best."
Among those who did not make the first cut were the men's table tennis and football teams.
"We are working closely with the Singapore National Olympic Council and Sport Singapore on our selection for the 2018 Asian Games," said Eric Ong, the Football Association of Singapore's head of national teams management.
"The Asian Games are important in the lead-up to the 2019 SEA Games and the 2020 Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship, which serves as the qualifier for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
"Playing top-quality opponents such as those in the Asian Games is key for the team to further enhance its competitiveness and development. We will continue our discussions with SNOC and SportSG for our appeal."