SINGAPORE: Singaporean Erasmus Ang will make his SEA Games debut in open water swimming this August. However, his journey was anything but straightforward and it involved the use of technology.
In January 2016, the swimmer was recovering from a shoulder injury. The 16-year-old told Channel NewsAsia that the biennial competition had been the furthest thing from his mind.
Little did he know that in just a year, his sporting dreams would be catalysed with the support of National Youth Sports Institute performance analyst, Ivan Ee, who stepped in to assist his coaches.
Ee taps on various types of technology to analyse Singapore’s swimmers on a daily basis. He then helps coaches come up with strategic performance plans.
"Even now I still can't believe I made it. I was targeting more of the Youth Olympic Games and the 2019 SEA Games,” said Ang.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO BOOST SWIMMERS
One example of the technology is the customised “Swim Analysis Trolley,” which Ee’s team co-developed with aquatic centre specialists Spectrum Imaging. The device, which has two cameras to capture footage of the swimmers both above and underwater, allows a more in-depth look at their form.
Performance analyst Ivan Ee using the "Swim Analysis Trolley". (Photo: Nadia Jansen Hassan)
"Sometimes when the swimmers are swimming, they don't know where their hands are, or the position of their strokes. So with this equipment, it allows them to see for themselves, where they are positioning their strokes, and it also allows the coaches to quickly correct their technique,” said Ee.
With the trolley, the performance analyst deduced that Ang was expending too much energy, by using too many arm strokes and not kicking enough.
"He helped me kick properly,” said Ang. “He taught me the techniques, showed me videos of world class swimmers like Michael Phelps and his underwater fly kicks, which made me do pretty well in my fly kicks and off the turns, especially when I'm a long-distance swimmer,” he added.
A two-box photo of swimmer Erasmus Ang in the water. (Photo: National Youth Sports Institute)
Such technology is what the Government hopes to invest in, after it announced in March that S$50 million will be pumped into high performance sports over the next five years.
PREPARING FOR THE SEA GAMES
Looking ahead to the SEA Games, Ee’s goal will be to zoom in on Ang’s technique for open water. "In normal pool situations, where there are no waves, you can actually use the gliding method and you can still get away with it,” said the performance analyst.
“But in open water conditions, where the water is choppy, it's sometimes very difficult to use that kind of technique,” he added. “So we want to work with him on a high elbow catch, to really get a firm grip of the water, so he can catch the water fast enough and rip through, and propel himself forward.”
But according to the analyst, even the most advanced devices may not fully help one factor: The force of nature. Most young athletes experience growth spurts, which affect their coordination and cause them to be more prone to injuries.
"Advice we give coaches is to reduce their training loads, by reducing their intensity and their repetition, because the idea here is not to focus on them in the short-term, but more on their long-term development,” said Ee.
“For me, what's more important is for them to stay injuries free, for them to be able to train and develop, and not just for these short-term goals, because we want them to continue to swim and win medals for us in the future to come.”
The SEA Games will take place in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 19 to 31.