Schooling, Zheng Wen, to focus on world championships
Singapore's top two male swimmers to focus on world championships
At the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil, Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen combined for 13 of Singapore's historic 23 swim gold medals.
But national swim coach Gary Tan revealed the dynamic duo are unlikely to take up another punishing schedule at this year's Games in Malaysia in August.
On the sidelines of an announcement of a four-year partnership between the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) and Liberty Insurance at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday, the 34-year-old said: "Joseph and Zheng Wen are focusing mainly on this year's world championships (Budapest, Hungary, from July 14-30), and rightly so.
"Swimmers of their calibre should aim for bigger things.
"The SEA Games is part of this equation and is still very important to them. But they will be coming off a really tough season, going straight from the world championships in July to the SEA Games.
"So, we have to manage their fatigue level and try to create a bigger spread of gold medallists and podium finishers."
Tan acknowledged that the national team will sorely miss the contribution of 29-time SEA Games gold medallist Tao Li, who will likely miss this year's SEA Games, as The New Paper reported yesterday.
"We will lose quite a bit of depth because of Tao Li's absence. She contributes in relays and won five golds at the last SEA Games," Tan said.
"But I'm optimistic that Quah Ting Wen, and some of the younger ones like Quah Jing Wen, Christie Chue and Faith Khoo, can step up.
"We are going to face a very tough one for the girls but what's a SEA Games without a challenge?
"If the event order is based on the 2015 format, there's a good chance for a repeat of the same medal tally."
Singapore swimming is riding high at the moment.
Schooling's breakthrough silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games was followed by the prolific 2015 SEA Games haul.
Schooling went on to land Singapore's first Olympic gold last year, while Zheng Wen made the Olympic semi-finals.
SSA president Lee Kok Choy told TNP that it is critical to capitalise on the swimmers' success and attract more sponsors such as Liberty Insurance, even as national sports associations face a 10 to 30 per cent funding cut from Sport Singapore, as TNP reported on Wednesday.
This latest deal with Liberty Insurance - worth a six-figure sum - is believed to be the SSA's biggest cash sponsorship deal to date.
In total, the SSA has secured over $4 million in sponsorship since 2014. Their corporate partners include OCBC Bank, Neo Garden Catering, Volkswagen, Yakult and 100Plus.
"Such level of support from various stakeholders makes a lot of difference as we are not dealing with just a recreational sport, but also building the next generation of world-class medallists and champions for Singapore," said Lee.
The focus of the sponsorship deal with Liberty Insurance includes the grooming of the next generation of athletes, by supporting initiatives run by the SSA, as well as provision of insurance coverage for athletes, staff, volunteers, technical officials and spectators.