Writing 'a new chapter' after tough times

Coach Tan sees swimmers having 'renewed sense of energy' following recent setbacks

After a disappointing outing at the Tokyo Olympics followed by the shock exit of national head coach Stephan Widmer last month, the direction of Singapore swimming has come under scrutiny of late.

But the performances at the 9th Singapore National Swimming Championships (Short Course Metres), which ended yesterday, have convinced National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan that his charges are eager to move on and "write a new chapter".

The four-day meet at the OCBC Aquatic Centre saw 20 national records broken and nine swimmers - Teong Tzen Wei, Quah Jing Wen, Pang Sheng Jun, Maximillian Ang, Ong Jung Yi, Glen Lim, Ashley Lim, Amanda Lim and Marina Chan - qualified for next month's Fina Swimming World Championships (SCM) in Abu Dhabi. The final list will be confirmed on Wednesday.

Tan, 39, said: "From the last few meets we've had, to be very honest, we were underperforming to a certain extent, even at the Olympics, where things were a little bit tougher on us.

"It's always good to come out of this slump with a renewed sense of energy with the team.

"Coming into this meet, we did not have much expectations. The coaching staff's focus was on getting as many swimmers to the world champs and how we wanted our athletes to go out there and start racing hard.

"We saw that today and over the last few days. It's been really great, and I could not have asked for a better meet."

Yesterday, Quah's effort in the women's 200m individual medley was another standout result. She clocked 2min 12.58sec to break Joscelin Yeo's national record of 2:13.09 set in 2000.

The arrival of Hungarian Alex Mordvincev, Brazilian Gustavo Schirru and former national swimmer Lionel Khoo as NTC assistant coaches since August has contributed to the "feel-good environment", said Tan.

"We got new coaches on board, just different sets of energy that we brought to the squad. The whole meet seemed more relaxed, more fired up and that's where we actually saw a whole lot of times dropped in the process as well.

"I think the coaches on deck and the people around are more relaxed and happier, and to be very honest, I think it is the weight that has been lifted from the disappointment of the Olympics.

"It is just a case of moving on and writing a new chapter for Singapore swimming."

While the Singapore Swimming Association has yet to announce Widmer's successor, Tan was keen to take up the challenge.

He said: "I know I am up against capable candidates and may the best man win. But I will not shy away from this job. I want to take up the responsibility because I want to make an impact and I want to make things right for Singapore swimming."

Teong, 24, who set three national records last week, said the new coaching additions have been "refreshing". He added: "The results speak for themselves. We've all done very well, you can see the energy and vibe have been different compared to before."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2021, with the headline Writing 'a new chapter' after tough times. Subscribe