Sports

Lopez's aim: Turn Singapore into one of 
the best swimming nations by 2020

The 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games is just six months away, but national swimming coach Sergio Lopez is assembling a centralised a training squad for assignments well into the future.

In the squad are youngsters like Cherlyn Yeoh, Nicholle Toh (both 13 years old), Francis Fong, Darren Chua, Quah Jing Wen and Hannah Quek (all 14).

Said the Spaniard: "The most important thing for Singapore now is this year's SEA Games, and that is big (on home soil).

"But my job is to create a programme such that in 2020 we can be one of the best nations in the world."

He is still trying to understand the local culture before introducing any elements from his highly-successful Bolles School programme here.

The 1988 Olympic bronze medallist said: "In the long term I have a plan to meet with the club coaches and see how I can help them or be a resource for them. We are not here to take the kids away from the clubs, we are here to enhance Singapore swimming."

He hopes to nurture an environment where clubs vie with each other to produce the best swimmers for the national training squad, while still representing their clubs for meets.

Ultimately, he wants to cultivate that can-do spirit which he embodied when he transformed his "average" talent into Olympic success.

He said: "The most important part of my coaching philosophy is to make the kids understand that nothing is impossible.

"If a kid comes up to me and tells me that he wants to be an Olympic champion, I'd go, 'let's go, let's do it'."