SEA Games: Sailors eye record haul

SEA Games: Sailors eye record haul
INCREDIBLE: Aged 14, Jodie Lai (right) is Singapore’s youngest Asian Games champion.

Few sports in Singapore have been as prolific as sailing when it comes to producing stars.

In their South-east Asia (SEA) Games line-up are past and current world champions - Victoria Chan, 24, Elizabeth Yin and Griselda Khng, both 23, Darren Choy, 21, Savannah Siew, Elisa Yukie Yokoyama and Ryan Loh, all 18, and Loh Jia Yi and Jessica Goh, both 17.

Bernie Chin, 15, and Samantha Yom, 16, are Singapore's first Youth Olympic gold medallists.

Jodie Lai, 14, is Singapore's youngest Asian Games champion.

At next month's SEA Games, 11-year-old Muhammad Daniel Kei, who is participating in the team racing optimist (Under-16 mixed) event, is tipped to be another show-stopper.

And, given their remarkable record, there may be more in the pipeline.

Understandably, the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) is careful not to heap undue pressure on its young sailors, but team manager and former Olympian Terence Koh told The New Paper that the continual blooding of new talents is in line with its long-term goal of producing an Olympic medallist.

NO STARS

The 2005 and 2011 SEA Games champion said: "'Star' is a term coined by the media. We have no big sailors in our midst as most of them are still early in their sailing careers.

"It's good to have new sailors, new faces and new success stories because it shows we are developing the next generation.

"If they do well, great but, if they don't, they know they still have a long way to go if their final target is the Olympics.

"We always have to look at the bigger picture. We are pulling out all the stops. Sailors now have tremendous support to achieve what they want if they are committed and they must do everything they can."

Another former Olympian Siew Shaw Her - a six-time SEA Games gold medallist, 1998 Asiad champion and 1999 Sportsman of the Year - feels that with all the support and resources pumped into the sport, a Singaporean sailor could deliver an Olympic medal in 2020.

He said: "The signs are there. Compared to my time, their performances are so much better. The support and exposure are there. We should be able to medal in Tokyo 2020."

Koh agreed with the assessment and paid tribute to the support system the sailors enjoy.

"There are no secret or shortcuts. We have a system based on meritocracy, on being fair and open," he said.

"Our federation works closely with the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) in terms of sports science, psychology, physiology and physiotherapy for our Spex scholars.

"We communicate with sailors and their parents, and have understanding from the ground."

While Koh declined to give a gold-medal target for the upcoming SEA Games, he feels that with good preparations, and given that their contingent of 32 sailors is their biggest at a SEA Games, they are well-poised to achieve a better haul than their current best of seven golds and five silvers.

He said: "Our sailors have mostly gone to Europe, some coming off Olympic programmes. Preparations have gone well and we are now in the final phase of fine-tuning and peaking.

"We don't set gold-medal targets because there are too many variables.

"There will be homeground advantage sailing in familiar conditions. The SSI has been giving us a lot of support and our sailors are well equipped.

"We will definitely try to achieve our best medal haul, but we can't guarantee it.

"We will try to win in every event.

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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