Asian Games: SSA could turn to Lopez

Asian Games: SSA could turn to Lopez

Two swimmers under Sergio Lopez's pupillage have already found their way to the podium here at the Asian Games, and they could well bag Singapore a couple more medals by the time the swimming competition comes to a close on Friday.

If events pan out for the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA), then Lopez could be unveiled as the Republic's new national coach soon after the curtain comes down on the Asiad.

Joseph Schooling won bronze in the men's 200m butterfly on Sunday, with Tao Li going one better, winning silver in the women's 50m butterfly last night, and the hope is that Spanish Olympic medallist Lopez will usher in even more success with Singapore's swimming programme.

While sources revealed that Lopez sits atop the shortlist to replace Briton Ian Turner, the former national coach and technical director who resigned in July to focus on his recovery from cancer, SSA secretary general Oon Jin Teik declined to name names.

"We are in the final stage of negotiations, and we cannot reveal names because the persons (in question) have existing jobs, and there are sensitivities there," said Oon, speaking at Incheon's Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Centre yesterday.

"We aim to make an announcement after the end of the Games."

According to Oon, the choice of coach was not a unilateral decision, but one taken after consultation with coaches in the SSA's high performance committee, and the criteria were specific.

"We are looking for a coach who can settle in fast into our systems and culture, work within the local system... and also one who is familiar with the total high performance system including sports medicine and sports science, and knows how to use that," added Oon, himself a former Olympian.

"Because we are in the middle of an Olympic cycle (coaches are usually hired after an Olympics to implement a four-year plan to take swimmers to the next edition) the pool of available coaches is limited.

"But we are aiming very high and looking for a coach who can take our swimmers to the highest they can get to, be it the Olympics, Asian Games, or South-east Asia Games," he said.

While Lopez fits the requirements, David Lim, one of four coaches in the SSA's high performance committee, believes that the key to unlocking the potential in Singapore swimming lies in our culture.

"Sergio's a friend of mine, he's a good coach, who has done well with Tao Li and Joseph, and I think he'll do a good job," said Lim.

"He'll bring new ways of coaching and share that with us local coaches... but we must ask ourselves if we are ready for Sergio Lopez, not if he is ready for us."

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