Team Singapore

Ex-Olympian Mark Chay now coaches at Aquarian Aquatic Swim School

Former national swimmer tasked to set up competitive team at Aquarian Aquatic Swim School

He had been on the pool deck at several competitive swim meets in recent times as a commentator, but had always been "itching to give back" to swimming as a coach.

Last October, former national swimmer and Olympian Mark Chay got his chance, when ex-national team manager Elsie Chiang approached him to set up a competitive team at a private pool at Jalan Bukit Merah, under her Aquarian Aquatic Swim School brand, which was set up in 2012.

The Aquarians also have several branches operating at public pools in areas like Bedok and Sengkang.

Chay, 34, was initially hesitant because of his commitments - he is the chief executive officer of Coleman College, the executive director of the International Sports Academy, and sits in committees at the Singapore National Olympic Council and the Chinese Swimming Club's swimming section, among other appointments.

He said: "I was inspired by Gary (Tan, national assistant coach and good friend) and what we've been doing on the local scene.

"So I thought, why not try my hand at being on deck?"

While Chay had previous ad-hoc roles with Swimfast Aquatic Club, his "voluntary, but with compensation" stint with the Aquarians is his first real foray into competitive coaching, where he has to actively plan and execute short- and long-term programmes.

Chay is among several young former national swimmers in recent years who have taken up coaching roles on the local swimming scene.

Other young coaches of note are Leonard Tan and Richard Chng (Swimfast), Mylene Ong and Lim Zhi Cong (Chinese Swimming Club), as well as Tan, who is national swim coach Sergio Lopez's No. 2.

Also, Tao Li has set up her own swim club, although she is focusing her energies on Learn-To-Swim programmes at the moment.

Chay said his focus is to provide an intermediate platform for people to transit from novice to competitive swimming.

He said: "After you learn the four strokes (in Learn-To-Swim programmes), where do you go?

"When they hear clubs like Chinese Swimming Club and Swimfast training 12 times a week, they may (be shocked).

"We act as a bridge: we train between three and six times a week and it's not a big commitment."

While high-performance swimming - where athletes train towards major Games - is not on the cards in the next "one or two years", Chay said he will happily release any swimmers to the National Training Centre squad if they make the cut.

He said: "I know with the resources we have and the time that I have, I can't bring them to that level. Sergio and Gary are the pros, I am a volunteer. I know my role here." - LIM SAY HENG

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