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Sailing: Nanjing on their minds for Singapore sailors

When competition begins on Thursday at the 33rd SIM Singapore Open Asian Windsurfing Championship, two 16-year-olds will be seeking to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing this August.

SINGAPORE: It was not just the weight of the wind in their sails that Ynez Lim and Wallace Gan felt when they came ashore after practice on Wednesday at the National Sailing Centre (NSC) at East Coast Park.

When competition begins on Thursday at the 33rd SIM Singapore Open Asian Windsurfing Championship (SOAWC), the two 16-year-olds will head out seeking to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing this August.

The SOAWC incorporates the 2014 Techno 293 Asian Championships, which is the continental qualifier for the YOG.

It has attracted 36 other athletes from eight Asian nations - including powerhouses Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia - to fight for the six YOG slots, three apiece for girls and boys.

Unlike last month’s South-east Asian Games, when Ynez and Wallace won silver and bronze respectively on RS:One boards, this week they will compete on the Techno 293, a board designated for the YOG.

Both admit their knowledge of local conditions could play in their favour.

“The NSC is our training ground, and we know where the gusts are coming from and their magnitudes.

This is a huge boost and we both hope to qualify,” said Wallace, who has until now kept his YOG ambitions from his friends at Holy Innocents’ High School, where he is in Secondary 4.

For Ynez, who made the switch from sailing to windsurfing four years ago, the key is to stay calm.

“If the weather conditions remain this way, I think both of us can qualify. After that, a medal of any colour will do in Nanjing!” said the Secondary 4 student from St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary, who credits coach Sakda Sakulfaeng for her continued progress in the sport.

Thai Sakda arrived two years ago as the Techno 293 coach for the Singapore Sailing Federation and has both Ynez and Wallace under his wing.

“We did not have any fixed coach previously and it was all very mixed-up for us because coaches keeping coming and leaving,” said Ynez.

“Now we have a coach that specialises in the Techno class, and who has stayed with us for so long, and our skills have improved tremendously.”

Sakda has high hopes for the duo who he considers Singapore’s brightest windsurfing talent.

“Their only major competition is the SEA Games last year, but the YOG is a world-level competition,” he said. “Their recent SEA Games medals will give them some push towards competing for slots at the YOG.”

Audrey Yong, the 2010 YOG bronze medallist, will also be in action at the SOAWC, competing in the RS:X class.

The championships feature 100 of the region’s finest windsurfers competing in six classes and will run until Sunday.

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