Tiring year but Lopez still expects good times

It has been a long season for Singapore's swimmers, many of whom have taken part in four major meets since December - two National championships, the SEA Games, and the national age group championships.

Nevertheless, coach Sergio Lopez is hopeful the 11-strong swim team can still clock personal bests at the World Championships this week in Kazan, Russia.

In a phone interview with The Sunday Times, he said: "We've had a very harsh season with the SEA Games and everything... but the team look very good in the water. They trained very well, and I won't be surprised if they swim their best times."

He also has high hopes for the men's relay team, who are aiming to book a spot at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next August.

The top 12 teams at the world championships qualify automatically for Rio, while four places will go to the fastest teams based on times in the 15 months preceding the Olympics.

The men's team's times at the SEA Games in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m free and 4x100m medley would place them 12th, 14th and 15th overall at the last World Championships in 2013.

That said, Clement Lim, a key swimmer in the 4x100m free and 4x100m medley teams, has since retired. Pang Sheng Jun looks likely to take his place.

Lopez remains upbeat, saying: "I'll tell you now, if the four guys have a good swim, we should swim faster than we did at the SEA Games.

"Hopefully that puts us in the top 12, or at least in the top 16, where we have a chance (of making the Olympics)."

While all eyes will be on Joseph Schooling's bid for a historic first world championships medal for Singapore, team-mate Quah Zheng Wen will also be keen to put on a good show on his debut at the biennial competition.

Last month, Quah, who has already met the Olympic "A" time for the 200m butterfly, was granted deferment from national service.

The 18-year-old, known for his ability to swim in multiple events, is entered in nine events in Russia.

Quah, who competed in 12 events at the SEA Games, said: "I'm a little tired coming into this, but I'm feeling pretty good in the water, and mentally I'm ready for this.

"My best chances of making the semis and the final are the 200m fly and 100m backstroke.

"There's not really extra pressure from the deferment. I'm also coming into this for the experience of racing with the world's best swimmers, and this will help prepare me for Rio."

Chua Siang Yee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'Tiring year but Lopez still expects good times'. Subscribe