C'wealth Games: All set to make their bow

Schooling is one of the three athletes ready for glory quest in the commonwealth games.

They are still not out of their teens and have not yet tasted the unique atmosphere of a Commonwealth Games.

But 14-year-old shooter Martina Veloso, 18-year-old paddler Clarence Chew and swimming star Joseph Schooling, 19, have already achieved much in their respective fields, and are expected to make a splash for Singapore in Glasgow.

The 2014 Games, which will open tomorrow morning (Singapore time), are not just for the three debutants to gain experience competing in a world-class environment; they have a proven track record that suggests they are genuine medal hopefuls.

In Schooling's instance, it is a chance to create history by becoming the first Singaporean to win a Commonwealth Games swimming medal.

The young trio of Team Singapore athletes have been building for the occasion for some time, and few will envy the kind of pressure they are under.

Not University of Texas undergraduate Schooling, though.

"That would be pretty sick," said the butterfly sprint specialist with a laugh, when The New Paper reminded him of the possibility he could make history in Scotland.

"But I'm not really feeling the pressure from other people. I care only about the pressure and expectations I put on myself and that's enough.

NO PRESSURE

"I'm not thinking of medals at the moment. I'm just thinking about getting that first race in."

Schooling, who won six golds at last year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar, will swim in five events in Glasgow (see sidebar).

"I'm excited over the 50m fly and it's a race I haven't competed in at a high level before," he said. "I'm excited for my pet event, the 200m fly, too, but I'm taking it one race at a time."

Another young Singaporean athlete who can look forward to multiple events is Chew, who will be involved in the table tennis men's team and mixed doubles events.

The Republic Polytechnic student demonstrated his appetite for the big occasion by claiming some big-name scalps in the form of Hong Kong's Wang Chun Ting (then world No. 37) and Sweden's Per Gerell (then world No. 35) as the men's team finished joint-fifth at the World Championships in May.

His feats mean he is no longer an unknown quantity, but a paddler whom opponents will devote time and effort to analyse for strengths and weaknesses.

MEDIA SAVVY

"I'm expecting strong competition at the Commonwealth Games from England, India and Canada," Chew said. "After the World Champs, my confidence has definitely increased. My preparations have been going on well, and I know if I continue to play with fighting spirit and without fear, and play to my best, I can match them."

While Schooling is a model of media savvy, and the relatively shy Chew is getting there, it's different strokes for different folks.

Quite understandably, the Singapore Sports School is keen to protect the interests of younger athletes like International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup winner Martina, who has been instructed not to field any interviews until the 10m air rifle event is over. Low Teo Ping, Singapore's chef-de-mission at the Commonwealth Games, is all for getting the young athletes to remained focused on the very task they are in Glasgow for - to perform well in their sport.

The 69-year-old, who has suggested a "handphone amnesty" initiative, said: "Our biggest challenge is to deal with distractions, one of which is their handphones.

"I leave it up to the respective team managers to handle this but I have suggested something called 'handphone amnesty'.

"Rather than banning the use of handphones totally, athletes can volunteer on their own to do so. It's something I introduced when I was in the sailing association and it worked tremendously well as the sailors understood why this was necessary."

Team Singapore have 70 athletes at this year's Commonwealth Games and Low has predicted they will at least match, if not surpass the haul from the Delhi Games in 2010, when the Republic returned with 11 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze medals.

Singapore's male and female table tennis stars are aiming for a sweep of all seven events and the shooters also will be counted on for gold medals.

Low says there is no need to revise his target, and added: "I shared with some of the athletes from the Singapore Sports School earlier - chase your dreams, wake up, don't go back to sleep. Be very focused and be committed to your cause.

"The youngsters are taking these Games as a chance to excel and know what international competition is all about, and it will put them in good stead.

"Expectations are all right, but the athletes, young as they may be, must have the winning mentality. Otherwise, they are not doing justice to their selection."

CLARENCE CHEW (Table Tennis) Age: 18 Height: 1.75m Weight: 60kg School: Republic Polytechnic Events: Men's team, mixed doubles (with Isabelle Li) RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships: 5th (team) 2013 Myanmar SEA Games: Gold (team); bronze (singles) 2013 Asian Championships: Fifth (team) 2013 Commonwealth Championships: Gold (team)

JOSEPH SCHOOLING (Swimming) Age: 19 Height: 1.84m Weight: 76kg School: University of Texas Events: 50m, 100m, 200m butterfly; 200m freestyle; 200m individual medley RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS 2013 Myanmar SEA Games: 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley, 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays, and 4x100m medley relay* - Gold 2013 Fina World Championships: 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley - semi-finals *pending ratification by SEA Games Federation after Indonesia won the race with a ineligible swimmer

MARTINA VELOSO (Shooting) Age: 14 Height: 1.56m Weight: 55kg School: Singapore Sports School Event: 10m air rifle RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS 2014 ISSF Munich World Cup: Gold 2014 Asian Airgun: Gold 2013 Asian Youth Games: Bronze 2013 International Junior: Gold

BY THE NUMBERS

803 - Australia are the most successful team in the history of the Commonwealth Games, which will be held for the 20th time in Glasgow. They have won 803 gold medals and are the only nation with over 2,000 medals.

This article was first published on July 23, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.