Swimming: Few stars but next-gen swimmers to step up

Swimming: Few stars but next-gen swimmers to step up
National swimmers Gary Tan, Josceline Yeo and Mark Chay.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's top swimmers, Joseph Schooling and Tao Li, will not feature at the TYR South-east Asian Swimming Championships (SEASC). Instead, a new generation will be looking to step up in their absence.

Of the 41 local swimmers picked by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) for the event starting next Saturday, 25 have no SEA Games experience.

SSA secretary-general Lee Kok Choy said yesterday: "It bodes well (to see young swimmers qualify), and it is very exciting for the future of the sport."

For Darren Chua, who holds the national under-14 record for the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley, this will be his first senior regional competition. "I am quite nervous, but it should be a good experience," he said.

For the more senior swimmers such as Rainer Ng, the event represents the last opportunity to be considered for qualification for September's Asian Games.

The 22-year-old said: "It is do-or-die, but a little pressure wouldn't hurt, and I will try to focus and use it to my advantage."

The championships are also a chance for the SSA to test itself ahead of next June's SEA Games, which will be the first hosted by Singapore since 1993. Lee, 62, said: "We can see how fast we can reconfigure (the venue) for the different aquatics events."

More than 200 athletes from seven countries will feature across diving, swimming, synchronised swimming and water polo, with 53 golds up for grabs.

Notable foreign swimmers who will feature include SEA Games gold medallists Triady Fauzi Sidiq from Indonesia and Nguyen Thi Anh Vien from Vietnam.

Despite Singapore bagging 40 medals in the 2012 SEASC, which was also held here, Lee said no medal target has been set this time, with the focus on giving athletes a chance to compete in a regional setting.

The SEASC will begin a day after the SSA elections, but the results will have no bearing on the running of the competition.

"The organising team are willing to commit and their roles are independent of their position in the association," said Lee, who will be vying for the presidency against Singapore Bowling Federation chief Jessie Phua.

The championships will be held at OCBC Aquatic Centre from June 14 to 24, and the public can enter free on the first and last days of the event.

Meanwhile, the SSA yesterday inked sponsorship deals with TYR, Yakult Singapore and Volkswagen Group Singapore. The deals will be worth a combined $800,000 in cash and value-in-kind to the association.

This article was first published on June 6, 2014.
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