CDM Low: Shooter Ser can surprise
Low feels a memorable Olympic campaign is on the cards in Rio
REPORTING FROM RIO
Low Teo Ping feels Usain Bolt will win the men's 100m here at the Rio Olympics.
He also thinks shooter Jasmine Ser can start off Team Singapore's South American adventure with a bang on the first official day of competition and win a medal in the women's 10m air rifle on Saturday.
The first prediction is easy enough, because, like so many others, Low says the Jamaican is Superman.
The second one is a bold call, because the Singaporean shooter is not among the favourites.
Like the rest of the 25 athletes under his care, Singapore's chef de mission has observed Ser up close these last few days as the team settled down to make Rio their "home" city.
He's talked to her regularly, and noticed a difference.
He told The New Paper yesterday: "There is an underlying confidence that reflects her maturity.
"She's got experience competing at this level now and there is a quiet confidence about her."
Low's 71. He's always been an optimist, exuding confidence and urging his athletes to be fearless in competition, whether as sailing president or now rugby chief.
And as chef de mission of Team Singapore.
This is his fourth time in the role. Teo has led Singapore into athletic contests at the 2007 SEA Games, the 2010 Asian Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
This is his first time as general at an Olympic Games. He says this is different from any other Games.
"The lay of the land is what makes this unique," said Teo.
"There are security concerns, there is the political situation in Brazil and health issues and the language, it is a big problem.
"Portuguese is a big problem because it is not an easy language at all."
Nevertheless, he was happy to report that all the Singapore athletes were in fine form, busy every day training at the various competition venues.
"The athletes, coaches and officials are all settled in and there are no big issues," said the veteran sports official and former rugby player.
"We had a briefing yesterday when instructions were given on being vigilant as we addressed safety and health topics.
"We also emphasised two phases - before competition and after competition - where instructions like getting permission from team managers before going out and always working on a buddy system were issued."
He has been impressed by the experience of the various team managers and the standard of the technical support available for the athletes.
Perhaps he was referring to the decision by swim star Joseph Schooling to drop his one-time pet event, the 200m butterfly, from his programme and train his focus on the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle.
"Joseph's found he's actually best at the 100m fly and the 2014 Commonwealth Games (silver) and last year's world championships (bronze) proved the point," Teo emphasised.
"This decision was left to his technical team, the coaches Eddie Reese and Sergio Lopez, and of course, Joseph himself, and they know what they're doing."
Schooling is a medal hope for Singapore. The table tennis women are going for a podium finish at a third successive Olympics.
The sailors are looking to make ground with 2020 in mind, just like 19-year-old backstroke specialist Quah Zheng Wen.
And there is Ser.
Could this Olympics be truly special for Singapore?
"I think so," said Teo.
"The backdrop is this is a third Olympics for some of our athletes, or a second campaign. There is experience there.
"Kinks like the swimming cap and goggles trouble Joseph encountered in London 2012 won't be repeated.
"The experienced group of athletes are focused and in the zone. In the Games Village, they are not awed by the likes of Nadal or Djokovic.
"There is a level of comfort and calm that is very assuring."
Inevitably, we return to 25-year-old Ser, who won gold in the 50m rifle pairs and 10m air rifle at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and finished top in the 50m rifle 3 positions at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Teo and the rest of Team Singapore's support group have got Ser's back.
She won't be going for the opening ceremony tomorrow night because her first event is on Saturday.
Said Teo: "We have given her a separate room away from the rest because, when they return from the ceremony, it'll be quite late and we want her to have a good night's rest.
"She's got her coach with her and she's on Skype with her psychologist.
"She's now ranked as world class. All she needs to do is perform at her best and I believe she will be on the podium."