Top coach praises swimming set-up

Former Denmark head coach Nick Juba believes Singapore's swimmers have all it takes to post good results at the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.
Former Denmark head coach Nick Juba believes Singapore's swimmers have all it takes to post good results at the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

With most of the crucial requirements already checked off the to-do list, the only thing left standing between swimmers based at home in Singapore and victory on the world stage could just be time.

Former head coach of the Danish swimming team Nick Juba, in town at the invitation of the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA), gave his vote of confidence to the local set-up as he came to the end of his week-long visit.

Said the Briton: "I haven't seen a lot, but I saw enough from the atmosphere at the National Training Centre to think that swimming here will be pretty good - if not in three years' time (at the 2020 Olympics), then certainly in seven years' time (at the 2024 Olympics).

"An awful lot of boxes are ticked here. It's not going to happen immediately but there's absolutely no reason why Singapore wouldn't be making a good mark by 2024 ."

He also praised the facilities and sports science support here.

Juba, 65, coached the Danish team from 2013 to last year, capping his tenure with a gold and a relay bronze at the Rio Olympics - the Danes' best showing at the Olympics in 68 years.

While Singapore can boast of two world-class swimmers in Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, he said it is vital to ensure the pool is deeper.

He said: "It's always difficult for countries the size of Denmark (with a population of about 5.6 million) or Singapore to make a huge impact. It's always going to be a few individuals.

"But it would be nice if having a relay team qualify for the Tokyo Games is part of Singapore's ambition. That widens the base of your success and it's a good sign that you're developing your base."

He added: "It takes a long while for the best young kids to become the best seniors and maybe they never do it. There's still a lot of steps in the journey.

"Everyone's got to significantly step up, but it's an exciting opportunity. The signs are very good."

Juba's trip to Singapore follows other invites the SSA has given to veteran high-performance experts in the last few months, including a visit by Australian coach Stephan Widmer in January. The latter is touted as a possible candidate to be appointed a consultant to guide the overall coaching staff.

When asked if he would consider the post if given an offer, Juba said: "I've not come here with that view in mind. If I were asked and the package was right, maybe, but I'm getting older and it's quite hard to move to the other side of the world for potentially a few years.

"I haven't really given it any thought and it hasn't been mentioned."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Top coach praises swimming set-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe