No Olympic medal target set, 12 qualifying sports already a 'breakthrough': Singapore Sports Institute chief
SINGAPORE: A medal target has not been set for Team Singapore at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, said Singapore Sports Institute chief Toh Boon Yi on Tuesday (Jul 6).
This includes Joseph Schooling, who won gold in the 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Speaking at a virtual press conference, Mr Toh said a successful outing at the Games would be defined by a number of factors, not just whether Singapore claims a medal.
"I will frame the definition of success on two levels - first level is the journey thus far and as it is, I will say that we have already seen success in the fact that we have got 12 sports qualifying ... it is the best ever. And to me, it reflects certainly a breakthrough," he said.
READ: Swimming: A race away from retirement, she booked an Olympics spot for Singapore and made history
A total of 23 athletes will represent Singapore across 12 sports. This is the highest number of sports Singapore will contest at the Olympic Games, surpassing its previous record of nine sports in 2012.
"It shows that all the investment that was put in over the last 10, 15, 20 years by everybody - athletes, parents, coaches, officials, scientists, Government, non-Government and anybody that contributed, the whole kampung that contributed to this high performance system, it is beginning to show some indicator of success."
Mr Toh also acknowledged the difficulties faced by athletes as they prepared for the Olympics amid the pandemic.
"The second definition of success ... is to recognise that in a very challenging lead-up, our athletes have dealt with all kinds of challenges, challenges that maybe when they started their sporting journey they didn't expect,'" he said.
"The fact that we are standing on the doorstep of Tokyo, it shows that our athletes do not give up. That COVID-19 didn't kill us. COVID-19 ... brought out the best in us. Everybody still gave their best shot."
Mr Toh declined to give a medal target or prediction. Instead, he said his hope was that Team Singapore's athletes did their best at the Games.
"I am not putting any medal target on any of our Team Singapore (athletes). Of course it'd be nice if we came up with a medal. But you know my choice as mentioned, I want Singapore to be proud of our athletes and I hope our athletes will give us very good reason for us to be proud of them, medal or no medal," he said.
"I'm in sports so I'm a little bit superstitious, so I will not give any prediction but I would like to see that our athletes give their best, whether it is their season best, whether it's personal best.
"Beat the opponent that they have met before, but lost to. Better themselves, and that is the success that I would like to see our athletes putting in. Trust the process, control the 'controllables', don't worry about the 'uncontrollables' and on a good day, I will say, our athletes can beat anybody."
Dr Ben Tan, who is Singapore's chef de mission, noted that using medals as the "be all and end all" when defining success at the Games would result in a "skewed picture".
"(It's) definitely not be all and end all because like I said, you have to know how to manage the data. If you use medals as the be all and end all, then you might get a skewed picture," said Dr Tan.
"Don't forget that in this round, using medals as a benchmark will be highly inaccurate because you don't have last year's results to benchmark against ... And you can't even use Rio Olympics as the benchmark because the challenges then and now are totally different. So I will say, of course, look at medals, that will have to be one of your parameters."
DON'T WRITE SCHOOLING OFF
Schooling's 2016 gold was Singapore's first in Olympic history and he clinched it in an Olympic record timing of 50.39.
However, the 26-year-old's fastest time so far this year was 52.93 at the ISCA International Senior Cup in March. Schooling finished second behind American Caeleb Dressel, who clocked 51.69.
Dressel, who clocked this year's fastest timing at 50.17, had also set a new world record in 2019, with a swim of 49.50.
"Joseph has already made history and this is something that nobody can take away from him. He will go down in history as that young man that won Singapore's first gold medal," said Mr Toh.
When asked about Schooling's medal chances, Mr Toh cautioned against writing him off.
"We ask that Joseph go there and do us proud, give us the swim of his life. Circumstances are different ... Rio was half a decade ago. And for a young man in his early 20s, that is like 20, 25 per cent of his lifetime. So that was a long while ago, but we know what Joseph is capable of. As I say, don't write him off," Mr Toh said.
"Some people may say that he goes in as an underdog. But I would look at him as going into the race rightfully so as a defending champion."
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