Singapore's young swimmers set sights on Tokyo 2020

Singapore's young swimmers set sights on Tokyo 2020

Joseph Schooling may have fired a warning shot to his Olympic rivals after a scintillating performance at last week's NCAA championships. But younger swimmers in Singapore are already looking beyond Rio 2016.

Singapore swimming

SINGAPORE: National swimmer Dylan Koo gets into bed before 10pm every night, and into the pool by 5.30am every morning. He trains twice a day nearly every day for a total of 10 times a week.

But it is a small price to pay for bigger dreams, he said.

"I want to go into the 2020 Olympic Games not just as a participant but as a medal contender,” he said. “To go there not just to be a space filler but to go there and aim to be the best - that's why I've sacrificed so much of my time, so much of my family time, time with my friends, my study time, just so I can attain that goal of mine."

It is not just his goal, but Singapore's as well. Joseph Schooling may have fired a warning shot to his Olympic rivals after a scintillating performance at last week's NCAA championships. But Dylan and other young swimmers are already looking beyond Rio 2016.

Dylan Koo

Swimmer Dylan Koo. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

"He's talented, he's very committed, he has the right mindset,” said Singapore head coach Sergio Lopez. “I'm very excited about that, he's matured a lot and I see him as one of the leaders of Singapore swimming pretty soon."

At the recent Singapura Finance National Age-group Championships, Dylan missed the Olympic ‘B’ cut in the 100m butterfly by just a hundredth of a second. But he notched a personal best, breaking the meet record for 15 to 17-year-olds - Jerryl Yong's 56.09s in 2013.

Also looking to prove herself on the world stage is 17 year old Hoong En Qi, who reached the semis of the 50m fly at the world juniors last year.

She joined the national training centre squad in January, but did not perform as well as she wanted to at the age-group championships – something she hopes to change with the help of national coach Lopez.

Singapore swimmers
Singapore national swimmer Hoong En Qi. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

Swimmer Hoong En Qi. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

"From January until now he has helped me a lot,” she said. “Like correcting my strokes, building up my strength, my power. I think he'll be able to push me beyond my limits and make me a better swimmer."

“She works very hard, she's a very down-to-earth kid, she wants to be very good and she has the talent,” Lopez said. “So I'm very excited - the future is bright, now it's going to be up to us to help them out."

And the first step to that will be getting the young swimmers ready for the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Hawaii this August.

"You have the best 18-and-under US swimmers,” Lopez said. “The best 18-and-under Japanese, Australian, Canadian. For us to mingle with those people – it's going to be very interesting."

Singapore will send 30 of its best swimmers there – 15 female and 15 male, Lopez said. There will also be another trial in June for those looking to score 'A' or higher 'B' cuts.

But in terms of targets, Lopez is more concerned about the intangible.

Sergio Lopez

Singapore head coach Sergio Lopez. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

"Our KPIs are more in the subjective way,” he said, “It's the dynamics of the team. If you watch the way the junior team evolved, and the way they portray themselves, now they understand that wearing this is not a right - it's a privilege, and they're going to go there to fight for Singapore. That's very important."

And even as they look towards 2020, Dylan and En Qi are clear about what they're fighting for.

"It's ultimately the biggest goal that I have right now,” Dylan said. “But more importantly, I think, is to look towards the smaller goals that will lead up to it such as the SEA Games, this year the Junior Pan Pacs, the Asian Games, the World Championships and then finally the Olympic Games."

“I'm swimming for myself, my coach, my family and my friends,” En Qi added. “And everyone puts in a lot of effort to support me. I feel like I'm swimming for them and I just don't want to let them down."

Source: CNA/ll