Anger as swim scheme 'sinks'

Singapore's Clement Lim clocked a new meet record and met his SEA Games qualifying marks on the final day of the Singapore National Swimming Championships on 21 December 2014. He touched home in 28.54sec in the 50m breaststroke.

It was a programme aimed at grooming and deepening the nation's pool of top young swimmers.

But a year after the launch of the Junior National Development Squad (JNDS), the future of the scheme now lies in doubt.

Many parents of the 19 affected swimmers are up in arms, displeased with what they perceive as a sudden cessation of a programme that was flourishing.

Likely to have to return to a decentralised training model at the swimmers' respective clubs, many feel they are now left in a limbo.

The current JNDS cycle was slated to run until April.

Said parent Ken Kang, 56: "While I respect the SSA's right to change the programmes, the timing for this is totally wrong.

"It's disruptive for the kids and the Singapore National Age Group Championships is only three months away. It's a major disappointment for us."

Added another parent who declined to be named: "They didn't even bother consulting us and the swimmers. There was a commitment to the children but now we're left in the lurch."

SSA vice-president (swimming) Joscelin Yeo held a second meeting with the parents yesterday morning and said the association preferred a decentralised approach for youth development.

Oon Jin Teik, SSA secretary-general, added yesterday that the departure of JNDS coach Eugene Chia - he is understood to be joining the Chinese Swimming Club next month - further complicated matters for the association.

Some parents feel that Chia had been prompted to leave because of signs that the JNDS would be shut down.

Said Oon: "At this point, we feel that a decentralised model may be better because we are trying to groom the local coaches and clubs.

"We want the clubs to be strong and we will continue to pump in resources where we can - whether it be grants, sponsorship money or time with (incoming head coach) Sergio Lopez."

He conceded that there might have been some miscommunication with parents and swimmers.

He maintained that while the SSA aimed to make changes to the junior programme, it never intended to shut it down.

"We've always said that we're going to enhance the programme," he added, noting that the junior squad in future would be split into two groups catering to those aged 15 to 18 and 11 to 14.

Details for the new programme are expected to be ready within a month after Lopez and new assistant head coach Gary Tan come on board. Some parents, however, are not convinced that a decentralised model is best.

Said Judith Tan, mother of 13-year-old Nicole Lim: "Not all clubs have the resources to invest in high-performance swimming."

She added that Nicole, who trained at the Singapore Island Country Club before the JNDS, flourished under the centralised training system.

"Nicole was primarily a breaststroke specialist but the training at the JNDS improved her endurance and she started to do other strokes to become a more all-rounded swimmer.

"There is hardly anyone back at the club to pace her and no one in her age group.

"She's very disappointed."

Oon said the SSA would take into consideration the feedback from parents.

He said: "It's a real concern and we will take note of that.

"If there's a gap that needs to be filled, we will find a way.

"How (we will do that), we don't know yet."

This article was first published on Dec 22, 2014.
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