Phua hoping to chart new waters

Phua hoping to chart new waters
Unveiling of Jessie Phua's (seated) team for the upcoming Singapore Swimming Association elections. Standing from left, Samson Tan, Lau Kum Weng, Eugene Tan, Gerald Koh and Mark Chay.

Singapore are the kingpins of swimming in South-east Asia but Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) presidential candidate Jessie Phua wants the sport to take a plunge and reach for more.

As she unveiled her team yesterday to stand in tomorrow's elections at the SSA annual general meeting, the 59-year-old is adamant that winning SEA Games golds should not be the primary goal for the Singapore swimming fraternity.

Said Phua, who is also president of the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF): "I'm so certain we can do better than to let the SEA Games be our goal every two years. Surely, we can set our sights higher."

At the SSA elections, she will be up against current SSA secretary-general Lee Kok Choy for the presidency.

On her slate are Nominated Member of Parliament Eugene Tan (secretary-general), former national swimmers Mark Chay (vice-president, swimming), Gerald Koh (VP, finance) and Shaun Lee (assistant secretary-general, swimming), former national water polo players Samson Tan (VP, water polo) and Lau Kum Weng (assistant secretary-general, water polo), as well as Joseph Schooling's mother May (treasurer).

Phua believes it is high time for change at the SSA, even if that means rocking the boat before next June's Singapore SEA Games. She pointed to how regional swimmers are slowly gaining ground on the Republic.

At last year's SEA Games, the likes of Vietnam's three-gold prodigy Thi Anh Vien Nguyen, 17, Indonesia's double gold medallist Siman Sudartawa, 19, and Thailand's 200m breaststroke champion Ketin Nuttapong, 21, look set to challenge Singapore's supremacy in upcoming meets.

Said Phua, who is also Team Singapore's chef de mission at this year's Asian Games: "The writing is already on the wall. I don't think we need to wait till a stage where the one being chased is doing the chasing.

"Whichever team comes in on Friday, one thing is clear: The status quo won't do."

Top of the bowling chief's to-do list is building capabilities, an approach which she said had served her well in her bowling tenure, which has seen the emergence of world champions Remy Ong (2006), Jasmine Yeong-Nathan (2008) and Shayna Ng (2012).

She plans to bring in top trainers to raise the level of coaching and revamp the current syllabus.

Her team also hope to put in place an Athletes' Care and Resource Centre, which will address both swimming and non-swimming concerns athletes may have, such as helping them with their application to foreign universities.

Phua, whose daughter Shu Yan was a national swimmer, is confident of her ability to juggle the portfolio of two of Singapore's biggest national sports associations, and avoid any conflict of interest.

She said: "I will not do the sport a disservice. My guiding principle has always been, if you want do something, do it to the best of your ability.

"I have worn many hats and I will be true to the hat I wear."

This article was first published on June 12, 2014.
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