National swimming coach Sergio Lopez believes this year's team can surpass Singapore's record 17-gold haul from the pool achieved at the 2011 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Indonesia.
After picking up the Coach of the Year (Swimming) accolade at the Singapore Swimming Association Awards Night at Hotel Fort Canning last night, Sergio Lopez told The New Paper confidently: "If the swimmers perform up to their potential, they can do better than 2011."
The Republic will host the 28th SEA Games from June 5 to 16, and swimming is expected to once again deliver the biggest haul of gold medals.
Singapore's swimmers collected 12 golds at the 2013 Myanmar Games from 32 events, six events lesser than the 38 contested in 2011 and in this year's edition.
Over the last two years, the Republic's swimmers have clocked faster times in the men's 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke, and the women's 100m freestyle, compared to the 2013 SEA Games gold medallists in the events.
Top male swimmers Joseph Schooling, who was SSA's Swimmer of the Year, and Quah Zheng Wen will lead Team Singapore's charge in the pool, having qualified for nine and 13 events, respectively.
Lopez dismissed the notion that his swimmers will not be able to peak twice, with the World Championships taking place in Kazan, Russia just one month after the SEA Games.
The 46-year-old Spaniard said: "If I didn't think they can peak twice, I wouldn't ask them to do it.
"I believe everyone who is not training with me (Singapore's overseas-based swimmers) are on track. Overall, we are all training well and excited for the SEA Games.
"We are training pretty high volume, working on the strokes, making sure they are doing well in the mental aspects as well. And then, we will rest and taper."
Over the years, the SEA Games has been a platform for Singapore to produce numerous swim queens such as Patricia Chan, Junie Sng, Joscelin Yeo and Tao Li.
Lopez is optimistic that the trend will follow with Quah Ting Wen's re-emergence after a horrific arm fracture in 2011.
The 22-year-old has qualified for nine events, including the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle and butterfly events.
"She is a very talented swimmer and she is capable of doing something special at this SEA Games," said Lopez.
"I hope she can have a breakout SEA Games this year.
"We also have a lot of other good kids like Christie Chue and (Quah Jing Wen) who will do well in the years to come."
While the 1998 Olympic 200m breastroke bronze medallist is used to world-class competition in his illustrious swimming and coaching career, Lopez insists he understands how special the 2015 SEA Games is for his swimmers, and the country.
While the level of competition is not necessarily the highest - ASEAN swimmers accounted for just seven out the 114 swimming medals at the 2014 Asian Games - Lopez said: "Swimming is swimming. Passion is Passion. Competition is competition. We are in it to win it.
"I understand how special it is for the country involved when it hosts a major Games. When I competed at the 1992 Olympics in Spain, I swam at the same pool I trained in since I was seven, and it was an amazing experience," he said.
"My goal is to see two Singapore flags at every podium.
"I think Singaporeans will be happy to see that, too."
This article was first published on April 26, 2015.
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