National coach tips Schooling and Zheng Wen to do well at Olympics
National coach Lopez confident Joseph will make big splash at Olympics, tips Zheng Wen to do well too
National swimming coach Sergio Lopez has tipped Joseph Schooling to deliver Singapore's first Olympic swimming medal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in August.
The Spaniard is also confident that Schooling's teammate Quah Zheng Wen will qualify for a final.
"I believe that Joseph can win a medal. I believe that Zheng Wen can be in the top eight, absolutely. They have the talent," said Lopez when he met with members of the media at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday to give a review of his past year in charge.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Schooling, 20, and Zheng Wen, 19, are expected to compete in the 100m and 200m fly events in Rio, while the latter might also contest the 100m backstroke.
"At this Olympics… I will not just go there and do what everyone says, which is like for the experience and what not," said Zheng Wen, who won the 200m fly 'A' final in 1min 58.07sec at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin, Texas, earlier this month.
The timing was off his personal best of 1:56.79.
"I want to go there and make a difference, and be a solid participant there," he added.
Lopez said: "The main event for Zheng Wen is the 200m fly. But, if he improves six-tenths of a second (in his 100m backstroke), which he can, he's top 16 for sure."
It has been a memorable first year for Lopez, as he led the swimmers to an impressive haul of 23 gold, 12 silver and seven bronze medals at the South-east Asia Games last June.
Looking forward, the 47-year-old voiced concern that an over-emphasis on academic achievements as well as National Service (NS) commitments could hamper an athlete's progress to the top.
Lopez is urging parents to let their children do what they love, rather than put them through a pre-determined academic track.
Regarding NS, Lopez said: "We have many swimmers who, by the time they are 16 or 17-years-old, stop swimming because they don't see a future any more, because of their National Service.
"There must be a way to allow people to be successful, not just in sport, but also in other fields."
In the wide-ranging interview, Lopez also listed a good youth set-up as another ingredient in the recipe for success.
"If we want to create sustainable success and have Singapore swimming be a consistent power in the swimming world, we need to have a good base with the younger kids," he said.
Lopez thinks that the likes of Francis Ong, Dylan Koo, Zachary Tan, Samuel Khoo and Brilliant Chua could take over the mantle from Schooling and Zheng Wen in the future.
"They're very talented. These young kids are not afraid," he said.
"The next two or three years (for them) will be at a very high level."
Lopez revealed that he will be taking some of his younger proteges to participate in the Junior Pan Pacific Championship in Hawaii in August, an Under-18 meet featuring some of the best swimmers from the United States, Australia and Canada.
"It's a very good chance for our younger swimmers to compete against future Olympians from the best countries in the world in a very relaxed environment where everything is about the team," he said.