SSA aims to strenghten foundation and get swimmers to compete at higher levels

They all wore red T-shirts with the message "Best SEA Games performance ever" on their backs, with the names of all the athletes who won medals and all the officials involved in smaller print.

After a successful Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year, Singapore's swimmers put on a record-breaking performance at the recent SEA Games on home soil, winning 26 gold, 17 silver and 11 bronze medals.

Golden boy Joseph Schooling, who won nine SEA Games golds, hopes for great things at the world championships in Kazan, Russia, next month, as he works towards becoming the country's first swimmer to win an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro next year.

After their annual general meeting at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last night, the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) executive committee acknowledged that their swimmers will have to aim for loftier goals than the SEA Games.

But instead of a grand blueprint to get there, SSA president Lee Kok Choy says it will be the little things that matter, as his committee goes into the second half of its two-year term.

Lee, 63, said: "Definitely, we are moving higher up the food chain... to the level where we want to be competitive at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.

"We are building that infrastructure and capability; we don't want to just be a flash in a pan but also want to build the whole capacity for the long run."

Secretary general Oon Jin Teik said the exco spent its first year in office building on internal structures and administrative matters, and forming bodies within the SSA like an athlete's commission and parent advisory committee.

The upcoming year will be spent on improving the quality and increasing the number of coaches and technical officials further down the pyramid of athlete development.

Touching on the subject, Lee said: "If we don't have a feeder system that gives continuous and higher-end supply in the pyramid, the coaches at the pinnacle will have to reach downwards to support (the infrastructure).


"We want to upgrade the capabilities at a lower level so that they can feed into the infrastructure."

Lee's team came into office by the slimmest of margins - a 17-16 victory over Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua and her team, amid tension among factions in the local fraternity.

Both Lee and Oon said they are still doing their best to bridge the divide through open and transparent communication, but will not shy away from making tough and unpopular decisions.

"We focus on doing what we believe is right, doing that requires some degree of change, and change can sometimes be hard work in terms of convincing the stakeholders of the need to do so," said Lee.

"We believe we are making progress, but there's no point in winning the elections (again) if we can't make a difference to the whole sport and fraternity."

Team building and bonding have been significant elements for the four disciplines under SSA's umbrella - swimming, synchronised swimming, diving and water polo.

For instance, athletes were hosted by the Singapore Armed Forces commandos before the Games, where they discovered more about teamwork and fighting for a common objective.

Oon said: "Healthy competition and tension is desired, but Singapore is just too small for polarisation. We should be one good team working together for the common objective - our national flag."

This article was first published on June 30, 2015.
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