Lopez: Swimmers can better 2011's 17-gold record haul this year
National swim coach believes Singapore team can better 2011 mark of 17 gold medals
National swimming coach Sergio Lopez believes this year's team can surpass Singapore's record 17-gold haul from the pool achieved at the 2011 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Indonesia.
After picking up the Coach of the Year (Swimming) accolade at the Singapore Swimming Association Awards Night at Hotel Fort Canning last night, Sergio Lopez told The New Paper confidently: "If the swimmers perform up to their potential, they can do better than 2011."
The Republic will host the 28th SEA Games from June 5 to 16, and swimming is expected to once again deliver the biggest haul of gold medals.
Singapore's swimmers collected 12 golds at the 2013 Myanmar Games from 32 events, six events lesser than the 38 contested in 2011 and in this year's edition.
Over the last two years, the Republic's swimmers have clocked faster times in the men's 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke, and the women's 100m freestyle, compared to the 2013 SEA Games gold medallists in the events.
Top male swimmers Joseph Schooling, who was SSA's Swimmer of the Year, and Quah Zheng Wen will lead Team Singapore's charge in the pool, having qualified for nine and 13 events, respectively.
Lopez dismissed the notion that his swimmers will not be able to peak twice, with the World Championships taking place in Kazan, Russia just one month after the SEA Games.
The 46-year-old Spaniard said: "If I didn't think they can peak twice, I wouldn't ask them to do it.
"I believe everyone who is not training with me (Singapore's overseas-based swimmers) are on track. Overall, we are all training well and excited for the SEA Games.
"We are training pretty high volume, working on the strokes, making sure they are doing well in the mental aspects as well. And then, we will rest and taper."
Over the years, the SEA Games has been a platform for Singapore to produce numerous swim queens such as Patricia Chan, Junie Sng, Joscelin Yeo and Tao Li.
Lopez is optimistic that the trend will follow with Quah Ting Wen's re-emergence after a horrific arm fracture in 2011.
The 22-year-old has qualified for nine events, including the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle and butterfly events.
"She is a very talented swimmer and she is capable of doing something special at this SEA Games," said Lopez.
"I hope she can have a breakout SEA Games this year.
"We also have a lot of other good kids like Christie Chue and (Quah Jing Wen) who will do well in the years to come."
While the 1998 Olympic 200m breastroke bronze medallist is used to world-class competition in his illustrious swimming and coaching career, Lopez insists he understands how special the 2015 SEA Games is for his swimmers, and the country.
While the level of competition is not necessarily the highest - Asean swimmers accounted for just seven out the 114 swimming medals at the 2014 Asian Games - Lopez said: "Swimming is swimming. Passion is Passion. Competition is competition. We are in it to win it.
"I understand how special it is for the country involved when it hosts a major Games. When I competed at the 1992 Olympics in Spain, I swam at the same pool I trained in since I was seven, and it was an amazing experience," he said.
"My goal is to see two Singapore flags at every podium.
"I think Singaporeans will be happy to see that, too."
Schooling and Lopez a headline act
WINNERS ALL: Athletes of the Year winners (from below) Adelyn Yew (women's water polo), Jonathan Chan (diving), Crystal Yap and Stephanie Chen (synchronised swimming) and Yip Yang (men's water polo) at the award ceremony.
They were the student and teacher combination that brought glory to Singapore at last year's Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
The Joseph Schooling-Sergio Lopez tandem emerged as the biggest winners at the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) Awards Night held at Hotel Fort Canning last night.
Schooling, 19, won the Athlete of the Year Award while the Spaniard bagged the Coach of the Year accolade.
Schooling's historic year saw him win gold in the 100m butterfly at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, and he became the first Singaporean to win a swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games when he finished second to Olympic 200m fly champion Chad Le Clos of South Africa in Glasgow.
In a video message from his university in Texas, Schooling said:"My attention is on the SEA Games and I am excited. Since I was a kid, I wanted to perform in front of my home crowd, having thousands of people cheering me on. I am looking forward to the Games."
The annual event to honour athletes, coaches and staff who have contributed to the SSA for the past year was attended by guest of honour Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth, and Second Minister of Communication and Information, who presented the awards.
Colin Schooling, Joseph's father, accepted the award on his son's behalf.
The 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games will be held in Singapore from June 5 to 16 and the Republic's swimming team are expected to make a huge splash at the OCBC Arena at the Sports Hub, led by national coach Lopez.
The 46-year-old, who guided Schooling at Florida's Bolles School before the Singaporean enrolled at the Univeristy of Texas last year, was hired by the SSA in January.
The Spaniard, who won a bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, said: "It is an honour to be given such an award.
"I was coaching Joseph when he was at Bolles last year and I was not surprised by his achievements at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
"In fact, this award is a justification of the hard work that Joseph and I put in the pool, Joseph is continuing to improve and the sky is the limit for him".
"My goal is to see two Singapore flags at every podium. I think Singaporeans will be happy to see that, too."
- National coach Sergio Lopez
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SINGSOC
Corporation Primary School is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
In conjunction with Singapore hosting the 28th SEA Games, the school is taking the opportunity to be part of the great countdown to the opening of the games by highlighting the number '40'.
Corporation Primary School is pleased to showcase its pupils' batik painting artwork on the different types of sports that will be played at the games.
All its 239 Primary 4 pupils will be working on their individual art pieces to create two big collages - one depicting the number 40 and the other one depicting "SG50".
PHOTO: ST FILE
Former swimmer Joscelin Yeo (above) is the undisputed Golden Girl of the SEA Games, with her 40 gold medals and 60 overall unlikely to be surpassed.
She took part in her first SEA Games in 1991 as a 12-year-old and won two silvers and three bronzes.
But it was at the 1993 Games on home soil that she soared with nine golds and one silver. In all, she took part in eight editions of the SEA Games and finished with 40 golds, 14 silvers and six bronzes.
Roll of Honour
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
- Swimming: Joseph Schooling
- Men's water polo: Yip Yang
- Women's water polo: Adelyn Yew
- Diving: Jonathan Chan
- Synchronised swimming: Stephanie Chen and Crystal Yap
COACH OF THE YEAR
- Swimming: Sergio Lopez
- Water polo: Lee Sai Meng
- Diving: Xu Jie
- Synchronised swimming: Maryna Tsimashenka
TECHNICAL OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR
- Swimming: Tina Ong
- Water polo: Toh Wai Keng Edmund
- Diving: Ng Ping Ding
- Synchronised swimming: Steve Chew