Let's be bold like Ang Peng Siong
Like us, swim icon senses a unique feat by Singapore athletes at SEA Games
Ang Peng Siong was in pain yesterday.
He'd just finished a medical appointment, the slipped disc was acting up in excruciating fashion.
Ang is 52 now, and still the same genteel character he has always been, in pain or not.
He was fast in the water, I daresay the second world-class athlete to star for Singapore at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games after weightlifter Tan Howe Liang.
He swam supremely confident and bold, he still is, and Singapore would want all its athletes to show off his attitude when the 28th SEA Games is staged here from June 5 to 16.
To win, and excite a nation.
There are 30 days to go to the Games and 748 athletes have been picked for battle in the athletic arena wearing Singapore colours. The excitement is building among the swimmers, table tennis players, rugby men and women, sailors and footballers at training venues all over the island and on many foreign grounds, and Ang, like The New Paper, expects a grand performance from the nation's representatives.
He said yesterday the Republic's swimming team was good enough to crack the 20-gold haul, and possibly even match the 23 wins from the first Games Singapore hosted in 1973.
He backed this newspaper's prediction of a record-shattering 75 golds from Team Singapore at this year's Games.
"I think it is possible," he told me.
"From the swimming perspective, we have a very strong group of seniors and juniors coming through. I think based on the team dynamics we have, I would really like to see us cracking the 20-gold mark, like in 1973."
"In terms of the progression of other sports, there are good signs," the former Singapore swimming coach added.
"They are pulling forward, getting stronger and facing more and more top competition.
"The 75-gold target definitely looks promising."
At the 50-day mark to the Games, TNP made its call for 75 gold medals from Singapore's athletes, and since then, various sports officials have urged caution.
Many have told us passing the 50-gold record from 1993 was very likely, but baulked at 75, many others still argue it is not necessary to set medal targets and heap pressure on our athletes.
Yes, it is about the process, but when the task is also to make a country fall in love with sport all over again, then a golden storm will be the perfect Cupid.
Fans dig it. Ang gets it.
He says the looming duel between our Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen in the pool is akin to the American battle between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
"When they go head-to-head, that itself will bring more excitement and colour to the Games," he said.
"That is value for money and what the fans want to watch."
How Ang drums up excitement for the Games.
The two-time Olympian won the 100m freestyle at the 1982 Asian Games and collected 20 golds over nine SEA Games, starting in 1977 and ending with the 1993 event on home soil.
Preparing for the Seoul Olympics in 1988, Ang was working squats with weights and his back popped.
He has lived with the painful slipped disc ever since, it restricts the former freestyle swimming star, who was the fastest man in the world in 1982.
It will not stop him from doing commentary at this year's swimming event, though.
It will not stop him from being involved in the opening ceremony on June 5.
In The New Paper's 30-day countdown special for the SEA Games, Ang senses something rare is brewing.
With the Olympics a little over a year away, we have said for sometime that Joseph could adorn this SEA Games with a spectacular swim, and he agreed.
"In the butterfly event, an Asian record is possible for Joseph," said Ang. "His maturity has reached a new level and, in his first year at the NCAAs, he's already winning.
"His Texas University coach Eddie Reese is world-class and also a great strategist.
"That will be a good question for Eddie to answer."
His performance will be one of the highlights of the Games.
When a nation looks for its athletes to answer the call.