New S'pore swim coach enjoys strong turnout on first day with training squad

New S'pore swim coach enjoys strong turnout on first day with training squad

It was his first time working with Singapore's swimmers at a pool yesterday, and new national coach Sergio Lopez was happy enough.

The 46-year-old Spaniard held his first session with 18 swimmers from the National Training Centre squad at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) vice-president Joscelin Yeo had sent out an invite to 59 carded athletes last month to join the national training squad and 35 applications were received.

The SSA will add 10 more swimmers to the squad next Thursday to make it a 33-strong training team.

Amanda Lim, Darren Chua and Hannah Quek, who are already in the team, will be allowed to train with their clubs for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June, the only time swimmers from the outfit will be given this dispensation.

A swimmer's place in the squad will be reviewed every December.

Of his first day with the squad, Lopez said: "It was good, nothing fancy and I was just trying to know the kids.

"We are going to take the next two weeks to set up the system in the sense of understanding their schedules... in the next week I will be talking to their primary coaches to understand what they have done so far."

Lopez, who won a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is responsible for moulding Joseph Schooling into the star that he is today.

He was coach of the Bolles swim team in Florida, but was successfully wooed by the SSA and signed a five-year deal last year to be Singapore's head coach.

Lopez's squad are more than twice the size of the previous centralised squad under former national coach Ian Turner, who stepped down last year due to poor health.

Lionel Khoo and Russell Ong were absent with apologies yesterday.

Those who did turn up trained from 5.30am to 7.30am and from 4pm to 6.30pm, with the afternoon session beginning with a 45-minute meeting.

Freestyle sprint star Danny Yeo, 24, who's also trained under Turner's squad, said: "It's just the first two training sessions, so it's hard to tell the difference, but there are definitely more swimmers now.

"Having more of the country's best swimmers training together will motivate me to train even harder towards the SEA Games."

While he says he has to make a few tweaks to the squad in preparation for the biennial SEA Games, Lopez readily acknowledges that the swimmers' own club coaches must get all the credit for any medals won in the region's most prestigious multi-sport event.

Said Lopez: "I am just the catalyst... putting the team together and motivating the kids to really understand what it is to be part of that (the SEA Games).

"We need to make sure that we educate our kids to really make this (the OCBC Aquatic Centre) our home, and make sure that when the other teams come here they have some sort of fear, because this is our place.

"The target is to have more medals than the previous SEA Games."


This article was first published on January 6, 2015.
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