Singapore sailing needs a trailblazer
World Sailing president Andersen believes S'pore needs a figure like the late Paul Elvstrom to break medal duck
The late Paul Elvstrom was a legend in Danish sailing, having won four Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles in eight different types of boat in his career.
World Sailing president Kim Andersen believes that Elvstrom, who died last December at age 88, paved the way for the European nation to clinch a total of 12 golds, nine silvers and nine bronzes at the Olympic Games, placing them sixth in the sport's all-time medal table.
The 59-year-old believes that Singapore needs a trailblazer like Elvstrom, for the Republic to start winning medals at major senior sailing events, such as the Olympics.
"You've already had 10 sailors at the (Rio Olympics), in numbers you are already exceeding many other nations and that is telling me that you have talent available," Andersen told The New Paper at the sidelines of the welcome reception for the World Sailing Mid-Year Meetings at the Equinox Restaurant last night.
"I think it's more of a mental game now, for a nation to believe that you can actually do it.
"Paul Elvstrom was our hero... he is one of the best sailors who ever existed and we are standing on his shoulders now.
"He is why we believe we can get a medal (at major regattas) and you'd need to pass that point.
"The first Singapore sailor to win a medal, that would be your Paul Elvstrom."
He also pointed out that the Republic already has a solid development structure, which contributed to Singapore's National Sailing Centre being accredited as a World Sailing Approved Training Centre in March.
Singapore is one of just five such centres worldwide, and the only Asian country with such a status.
The Republic sent its largest-ever sailing contingent to the Olympics last year, with 10 sailors across seven classes.
"Paul Elvstrom was our hero...he is one of the best sailors who ever existed...
The first Singapore sailor to win a medal, that would be your Paul Elvstrom."World Sailing president Kim Andersen
There were high hopes of Colin Cheng excelling in the Laser class, after he finished 15th and was the best-performing Asian in the same class at the London Games in 2012.
However, Cheng finished 20th in Brazil. The 49erFX duo of Griselda Khng and Sara Tan were the top-performing Singapore sailors when they finished 15th in their class.
Asians have traditionally lagged behind Europe in terms of medals at major sailing competitions.
Seven of the 10 most successful sailing nations at the Olympics are from Europe, while Asia's top nation, China, have won two golds, three silvers and a bronze at the Games so far.
But Andersen believes that Asia is gradually making its presence felt at the senior international level, even as the likes of Singapore have been excelling at junior classes, such as the Optimist and the 420, at the world level.
"When I was sailing, we didn't see any Asians competing; now you'd see Asians in the top 10," said the 2011 European champion in the Dragon class, who has been sailing since he was 13.
"People are forgetting that when you're in the top 10, you're really close to a medal."