Cheng qualifies for Rio Games

Cheng qualifies for Rio Games
National sailor Colin Cheng.

Next stop: Rio de Janeiro. National sailor Colin Cheng is the first Singaporean to book his spot at the 2016 Olympics.

The 25-year-old Laser Standard racer made it into the top-tier gold fleet at the Isaf Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain after impressing in his first four races.

Cheng is assured of his second Olympic outing as there are 23 qualiying spots up for grabs (one per country) and exactly the same number of nations made it into the gold pack, based on net points.

"I'm so relieved - now I can focus fully on being in peak form in two years' time," a delighted Cheng told The Straits Times over the phone yesterday.

He finished 15th at the 2012 London Olympics - the best-ever result by an Asian in the Laser Standard, a 4m-long, single- handed boat that weighs 60kg.

With four days of competition remaining, the 2006 Asian Games champion is placed 27th out of 147 competitors from sailing powerhouses like Australia and the Netherlands.

He will also feature at the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, looking to build on a silver at the 2010 Guangzhou edition. Off the northern Spanish coast in Santander this week, he was accustomed to the fast-changing winds and strong currents after spending six weeks training there in the lead-up to the event.

"It's very tricky as there's quite a bit of swell to deal with but the pre-competition training has certainly helped with acclimatisation," said Cheng, who took second spot in the first race and was inside the top 20 in the next three.

The University of New South Wales undergraduate has put his studies on hold for the next two years to focus on Rio.

SingaporeSailing chief executive officer Tan Wearn Haw said plans are in place for the likes of Cheng to have the best possible preparations in the lead-up to the Olympics.

He added: "Colin is part of our group of top national sailors alongside Scott Glen Sydney and Elizabeth Yin, who are peaking at the right stages of their eight-year cycle.

"We've scoped out local yacht clubs and training facilities in Brazil for them to potentially use at the 2016 Olympics.

"If our sailors keep working hard, I believe on their day, they can mix it with the best in Rio and bring home our first senior Olympic sailing medal."

This article was first published on Sep 15, 2014.
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