Swimming's Red Lions set to roar with 'Swim with Us' campaign
With the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, the Fina World Junior Swimming Championship and the Fina Swimming World Cup set to take place here over the next five months, 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for swimming in Singapore.
Being a sport that the country has traditionally been strong in, swimming has over the past five decades produced stars who had capture the imagination of the public.
From Patricia Chan, Elaine Sng, Junie Sng, Ang Peng Siong, David Lim, Joscelin Yeo, Tao Li, and now Joseph Schooling, our swimmers have continued to fly the Singapore flag high in international competitions.
To ensure that there is no shortage of interest and excitement ahead of three major meets, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) launched both the "Swim With Us" campaign, as well as a new national team identity - the Red Lions - for all five aquatic disciplines - diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, water polo and open water swimming.
Yesterday's unveiling was presided over by Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin at Kallang Wave Mall, a stone's throw away from the OCBC Aquatic Centre, which he hopes will be packed to the rafters in the months to follow.
"The "Swim With Us" campaign aims to unite and engage Singaporeans to come forward to support our athletes and three major events - the SEA Games, Fina World Junior Championship and Fina World Cup," said Mr Tan, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.
"I wish Singapore Swimming and our athletes all the best in their preparations and encourage more Singaporeans to join them in their quest for glory.
"I do not believe victory at the upcoming meets will be solely defined by the number of gold, silver and bronze medals we win, but by how we come together as one nation."
With the emergence of social media, the SSA has also set up official accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and have invited fans to share their own moments linked to the Red Lions with the hashtag #SwimWithUs.
The SSA is also hoping to invoke emotion in spectators with the release of a sleek video telling the story of a seven-year-old girl named Andrea, who gets distracted by footage of all the aquatic disciplines while doing her homework and ultimately jumps into the pool to swim the anchor leg of a relay.
One of the athletes featured in the video, Quah Ting Wen, will be looking to add to her haul of 22 medals when she participates in her fifth SEA Games come June.
And the 22-year-old admits she is looking forward to swimming in front of a home crowd as Singapore prepares to host the Games for the first time since 1993.
"I actually get nervous but excited every time I think about it," Quah told the New Paper yesterday.
"Having your own crowd present means there's more desire to not want to let people down and it'll spur us on to do ourselves and our country proud.
"For my event (butterfly), my head's in the water the whole time and it's not like breaststroke or butterfly, where you come out of the water and can hear the fans.
"But even if I can't hear them during the race, the knowledge that there are people in the stands just there to watch us, and are screaming and making noise, makes a big difference."
One of the stars of the pool the last time the SEA Games was held in Singapore was Yeo, who won nine gold medals despite being only 14 at the time.
Yeo, who is now vice-president of swimming at the SSA, believes it is motivation, and not pressure, that will arise from having the support of a home crowd.
"Any time you swim at home is always an advantage," she said. "It's exciting to have the whole crowd behind you.
"It's not about how you perform; everyone's just there to get behind you and what matters is to do your best.
"I think it's something the swimmers should be excited about and look forward to."
- The writer is a freelancer.