• Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

Schooling and Co up for 'stiff' test

Jul 10, 2019

Singapore will be represented by its largest contingent of 30 athletes at the July 12-28 Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

There will be 12 swimmers, 11 artistic swimmers and seven divers – the Republic’s biggest diving contingent. The previous record was 25 athletes at the 2007 edition in Melbourne. At the 2017 world championships in Budapest, Singapore fielded 14 athletes in the three disciplines.

The swimmers, who left for a training camp in Koshi, Japan yesterday, will be led by Olympic 100m butterfly champion Joseph Schooling, who will start his world championships campaign in the 50m fly on July 21.

Schooling, who won a bronze in the 100m fly at the last two editions, noted the importance of the biennial meet in the lead-up to next year’s Olympic Games.

“It’s the start of the last phase of our preparations for Tokyo 2020. It will give all swimmers the opportunity to gauge where they are,” he said in a statement yesterday. “Competition will be stiff, but we are ready to take on the challenge.”

The 24-year-old has been pencilled in for the 50m and 100m fly and the 100m freestyle. He is also expected to feature in the relays.

The seven national divers – Mark and Timothy Lee, Jonathan Chan, Myra Lee, Ashlee Tan, Fong Kay Yian and Freida Lim – arrived in Gwangju on Sunday and Lim, 21, is looking forward to competing.

She said: “My teammates and I have been training really hard and we believe we are in good shape to perform our best.”

National diving coach Li Peng’s target for his charges is to improve on their positions and scores from two years ago.

He told The Straits Times after his charges’ first training session in Gwangju yesterday: “It sounds like an easy target, but the divers are also older now, most of them are no longer teenagers, their bodies are older and (more prone) to injuries. This goal is not as easy as it sounds.

“The first day of training has been smooth, the athletes are in a good condition and state of mind. I have confidence in them.”

National swimming head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer, noting the six “newbies” in the swimming line-up, told ST: “The challenge is to go to the meet and gain knowledge about how to perform at a world championships.

“They will be exposed to world champions and world-record holders. It’s not the Asian Games, it’s another level up. That’s our challenge.”

The six debutants are Glen Lim, Jonathan Tan and Cherlyn Yeoh, (all 17), Darren Chua and Christie Chue (both 19) and Gan Ching Hwee the youngest at 15.

The world championships are also the swimmers’ first chance to qualify a relay team for next year’s Olympic Games, with the top 12 teams earning a relay spot in Tokyo.

Widmer added that one of the goals is also to have a “high percentage of personal best times”.

He said: “That means you can handle the environment… everything changes in that environment – where you live, how you eat, having bigger competition next to you.

“Those are the things we look at as well, and that goes all the way up to our top swimmers.”

Artistic swimmers Debbie Soh and Miya Yong will open Singapore’s campaign in the duet technical event on Friday.

Additional reporting by Rohit Brijnath

The July 12-28 Fina World Championships will be shown live on StarHub Ch 201-202 and 204.

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