SINGAPORE: They were among those who watched their team-mates do Singapore proud at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But come Friday (Oct 21), national swimmers Pang Sheng Jun and Nur Marina Chan won't be watching the Singapore leg of the FINA/airweave World Cup at the OCBC Arena - they will instead be part of the 29-strong Team Singapore squad that will be competing against some of the sport's top performers.
Although the event will miss local star power in the form of Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and Rio semi-finalist Quah Zheng Wen, their achievements in August will be a driving force behind Team Singapore’s FINA World Cup home leg, according to Pang: “I have a huge amount of respect for Joseph (Schooling), because he’s made history in Singapore.
“(His gold medal) really inspired not only me, but the rest of the swim team to be like him. He’s made us feel that it’s not impossible to achieve an Olympic gold medal, so I think that in time to come there will be more Olympic medalists.”
Having seen the impact of Schooling’s Olympic victory at the grassroots level, teen swimmer Chan said his achievements have inspired more children and young people to take up the sport: “First off, as a friend and as a Singaporean, I’m happy and proud of what Joseph Schooling has done. It’s the role of the senior swimmers to show us the way to lead the younger ones into the world-class scene.
“You now see that more kids that are now more into swimming. It’s really humbling when there’s more support, especially for a sport that you’re in.”
The FINA event in Singapore will see several of the world’s top swimmers compete for prize money in the short course competition.
The Olympic stars who will be taking part include Hungary’s five-time World Champion Katinka Hosszu and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos, who finished joint-2nd in the 2016 Rio Olympics 100m butterfly final behind Schooling. They join Japan’s Olympic medalists Masato Sakai and Daiya Seto, and Australia’s 100m freestyle Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers in the competition.
Pang, who is competing in three events in the two-day meet, believes the FINA competition represents a good opportunity to gain international exposure: “I think it’s definitely a privilege to be able to race alongside world champions and world-class swimmers.
“There’s a lot to learn from them, so I hope this competition gives me more learning points because every race is a step to learn from the best and just be better than myself,” said the Nanyang Technological University undergraduate.
GEARING UP FOR THE SEA GAMES
A major focus will be next year’s SEA Games in Malaysia, where Team Singapore will be aiming to improve on their 23-gold haul from the 2015 edition.
As one of the youth swimmers promoted to the senior national set-up, 18-year old Chan had a taste of regional glory when she was part of the 4x400 meter women’s freestyle relay team that won gold in the previous SEA Games. For the upcoming FINA World Cup in Singapore, she will be taking part in six individual events - the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, as well as the 50m and 100m butterfly and the 100m individual medley.
Swimmer Nur Marina Chan will take part in six individual events at the FINA World Cup in Singapore, three of which are Freestyle races. (Images: Noor Farhan)
The National University of Singapore Life Science student says she is looking forward to proving her mettle in the various events in 2017: “I’m really excited for next year, as I feel that I’m a different person now physically and mentally. And I’m looking forward to take part in individual events in next year’s SEA Games and hopefully medal.”
As one of Team Singapore's swimmers in the 2016 FINA World Cup in Singapore, Nur Marina Chan hopes to better her personal bests ahead of next year's SEA Games. (Photo: Noor Farhan)
She added: “(The FINA World Cup) is one of the preparatory meets for next year’s SEA Games. I’m just going in with an open mind and race against the World’s top swimmers like Katinka Hosszu, who’s already here. I can’t wait to see what I can do.”
In addition to testing himself against the world’s best, Freestyle ace Pang is also aiming to improve on his personal best times in the 400m Individual Medley (4min 14.36sec) and the 1,500m Freestyle (15min 7.87sec).
Said the national record holder in both events: “I think (the FINA World Cup) will be a good milestone for me leading up to next year’s SEA Games, because every competition is always a chance to see which areas I can work on, so this event is a good way to gauge where my form is at right now.
“This meet will definitely have many learning points for me and it will be good for me. This upcoming World Cup will be an opportunity to improve on my Personal Best times.”
Medals will not be Pang’s focus, but that does not diminish the importance of the upcoming World Cup meet, according to the 24-year-old: “Every competition is important because from every meet, there isn’t a perfect race that we’d swim.
“Every event helps us learn from the mistakes we made and so that coming into the SEA Games, we will know which areas we will need to work on and improve.”