Singapore sailors' sights set on top 10

When sailor Justin Liu and his partner Denise Lim were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earlier this year for a regatta, he marvelled at the famous sight of the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the Guanabara Bay.

The Singaporean pair, both 24, will be back in the South American nation come August, after the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) confirmed its nomination of the duo in the Nacra 17 class for the Rio Olympic Games.

The pair, who are also dating, finished 20th in the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta in Spain yesterday, which was one of the two events earmarked by the SSF for internal selections for that boat class.

The other event was the Nacra 17 World Championship in Florida in the United States in February, when they finished 29th.

Also, the women's 49er FX pair of Griselda Khng and Sara Tan beat Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low and secured their Olympic nomination yesterday after finishing 11th in Spain.

The two Singapore pairs now join windsurfer Leonard Ong (men's RS:X) in the Republic's Olympic sailing team, with spots in the Laser, Laser Radial and women's 470 to be confirmed.

While Lim and Liu were the only pair gunning for Olympic nomination in their class, they still had to perform to SSF's internal standards at the two selection events to secure their ticket.

Liu said: "We were more focused on improving ourselves and getting ready for Rio in this regatta, than seeing it as a selection trial.

"We are both very happy with the confirmation of our nomination... it's a culmination of all the hard work our team - Denise and I, as well as our coach Toni (Rivas) - have put in.

"It is just amazing that we have managed to do what we have done so far."

The seeds of their Olympic dream were planted after they failed to qualify for 2014 Asian Games.

In the 15-month journey leading up to their victory at the Isaf World Cup event in Qingdao last September, the pair have had to sleep in cars in Europe, and spent virtually all their savings, with the SSF providing some funding and the $24,080 boat they sail in.

Since their qualification last year, Liu and Lim have since joined the SSF's training squad, and have spent months away from Singapore, training and competing in Europe, the US and South America.

IMPROVEMENT

Liu said: "We have improved a lot sailing full-time in the past six months, with a full-time coach in Toni. We are really looking forward to continuing this hard work and growth towards the Olympics."

Their Isaf world ranking in the multi-hull event, which is making its debut in the Rio Olympics, is now 27th, a vast improvement from the 108th placing in July 2014.

But the Singaporean pair are aiming big - they want to break into the top 10 by the Olympics, which Liu reckons would even give them a shot at a medal.

He said: "In our class of boats, anything can happen at the Games but, realistically, anyone within the top 10 has a chance to win a medal.

"In the next few months, we'd be trying to close the gap with the top contenders. We have been closing the gap in the past months and they still have a slight edge over us in terms of speed and technique in the boat."

Training and competition beckon for Liu and Lim in the coming months, before they move to Rio late next month or early June for their final preparations for Rio.

Liu said: "The real moment, where everything will sink in, is when we reach the Games Village (during the Olympics).

"That is when the magic will begin."

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 3, 2016.
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