S'pore sailors gunning for elusive Olympics medal

The Singapore sailing contingent being welcomed home from the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea at the Changi Airport.

Laser sailor Colin Cheng has played golf only once, but it was enough for him to use a golf jargon to describe his bronze-medal finish at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

"Par for the course," he told The New Paper at Changi Airport yesterday, as the Singapore sailing contingent returned home from South Korea.

"In all honesty, I was shooting for higher. But, considering the lack of preparation I had in Incheon, I'm not too sad about it," he said.

The 25-year-old, who has two Asian Games medals in his collection - one gold (2006 Laser Radial) and one silver (2010 Laser) - arrived in South Korea a mere two days before the sailing competition began.

Instead of discussing events at the Asian Games, Cheng chose to focus on what lies ahead.

He had been at the World Championships, in Santander, Spain, the week before the Asian Games trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The gamble paid off for the nanotechnology undergraduate at Sydney's University of New South Wales, as he clinched qualification for Singapore by finishing 15th in the Laser event.

The qualification series - which featured 76 nations - decided 23 of the 46 places Laser places on offer.

Laser Radial sailor Elizabeth Yin also clinched a spot at the Olympics via the Santander, where she finished 19th in her class.

With Olympic places secured, Singapore sailing is now aiming for a top-10 finish in Rio.

SingaporeSailing president Ben Tan said that the Republic was on course in his four-pronged projection plan for the Olympics, which was designed soon after the 2010 Asian Games.

"The first step is to qualify, and that's done," said the former Asian Games Laser One Class gold medallist.

"Second is to not straggle at the back of the pack - you don't learn anything sailing behind.

MIX WITH THE LEADERS

"You have to mix in with the leaders.

"I think that Colin has done that.

"He's in the 50th percentile in the world, easily.

"Third, is to finish in the top 10. This is (the step) we're at right now. So, let's see in 2016.

"The final step, of course, is to win a medal, which we hope will come at least, at the (2020) Olympics."

Cheng admitted that a top-10 finish in Rio will be tough, but is leaving nothing to chance in his preparation over the next two years.

While most of the Singapore contingent will take a well-deserved break after the Asiad, Cheng is flying off to Qingdao, China, to compete in the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) World Cup beginning on Oct 14.

Having put his final year of studies on hold, he is now sailing full-time in Australia under coach Brett Bayer.

"The good thing about qualifying early is that we can already start planning," he said.

"There are a lot of critical events from now to 2016. There's a competition in Brazil exactly one year from the Olympics, in August.

"That competition is critical to get used to the tides and winds in Rio during that time of the year.

"Then there's also the World Championships next June in Canada.

"We were the 15th nation in Santander but, as you reach the top, it gets harder. I'm improving, but so are the rest.

"Finishing in the top 10 will be tough, but you can be sure I'll do my best."


This article was first published on Oct 4, 2014.
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