Singapore Olympic swimming hopefuls startoff on final road to Rio Games
Swimming squad off to the US to peak for August Olympics
Ten national swimmers, including the Quah siblings Zheng Wen and Ting Wen, left for training and competition early this morning to the United States, as they work towards the Rio Olympics in August.
Travelling on the 25-hour flight with them are Danny Yeo, Amanda Lim, Pang Sheng Jun and Lionel Khoo, with youngsters Nur Marina Chan, Hoong En Qi, Francis Ong and Dylan Koo also on board for the experience.
The first task for the swimmers will be the Arena Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis from Friday to Sunday, before they head for a three-week training stint in Florida.
US-based swimmers Joseph Schooling and Samantha Yeo will join the squad on July 7, when the team for the Olympics will be finalised. They will then head off to Paraguay for a final training camp.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday on the sidelines of the Singapore Swimming Association's announcement of a record sponsorship deal worth $1.6 million with apparel giants TYR, head coach Sergio Lopez said: "I think the swimmers will do well, they've been training hard.
"We will also be taking some of the junior kids like En Qi, Francis, Dylan and Marina for experience and to learn.
"For the young ones, the meet will be an eye-opener for them and hopefully they will have a lot to take away from their experience there."
Zheng Wen has already booked his place at the Rio Games from Aug 5 to 21, after meeting the Olympic "A" times for the 100m backstroke and 100m and 200m butterfly.
It will be a tough programme for him if he does swim in all three events. However, Zheng Wen told TNP that he may well take the plunge.
The 20-year-old got a taste of the big time when he competed on the World Cup circuit last year and he said: "It has been a great experience competing against the big guys like Chad Le Clos.
"I haven't beaten him but my timing is not very far off, I'm feeling pretty good at the moment and I'm definitely trying to make the final in at least one of my events."
Athletes who do not meet the "A" qualifying mark but make the "B" cut will be put through a selection process by world governing body Fina. The final list will be made known on July 7.
Zheng Wen and Schooling (100m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly) are the only two Singapore swimmers who met the "A" qualifying times.
Ting Wen, 24, made five "B" cuts (50m, 100m, 200m freestyle and 100m, 200m butterfly) and has high hopes of participating in her second Olympics, after her maiden swim in the 2008 Beijing Games.
She said: "In 2008, when I made it to the Olympics, it wasn't as satisfying as it has been so far this year because I think I faced more challenges coming into the qualifiers this year.
"I did not make any cut in 2012 and that created a mental barrier and I was unsure if I wanted to continue swimming until 2016.
"Being here right now still swimming and having the chance to go to Rio is just surreal."