If Joseph can do it, so can I
That's the spirit of Glen, 14, who holds three U-14 national marks
On that historic morning, National Training Centre swimmer Glen Lim was a bundle of nerves before Joseph Schooling's Olympic men's 100m butterfly final in Rio.
Watching the race with his teammates at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last Saturday, the 14-year-old Raffles Institution student watched intently as the likes of Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh took their places at the starting blocks alongside Schooling.
"It was very intense because Joseph was swimming against the other legends," Glen recalled after his training session at the Sports Hub pool yesterday.
Exactly 50.39 seconds later, tension turned to pride for Glen as the 21-year-old Schooling made history by winning the Republic's first-ever Olympic gold medal.
While the achievement is personal, the landmark victory has also sent out a message to junior swimmers like Glen in Singapore.
That a Singaporean can do well at the highest level, but you must believe in yourself that you belong there.
"His win proved that Singaporean swimmers have the potential to win medals at the Olympics," Glen said.
"If Joseph can do it, then so can I, and everyone else."
Glen is among a clutch of talented swimmers coming through the Singapore Swimming Association's (SSA) developmental pipeline, along with the likes of Jonathan Tan, Zachary Ian Tan, and Maximillian Ang.
Glen has had a stellar year so far - he rewrote Under-14 national records in the boys' 400m, 800, and 1,500m free events earlier this year.
Along with older teammates such as Dylan Koo, Francis Fong, Hoong En Qi, Quah Jing Wen, these youngsters represent the next wave of swimmers which the SSA is developing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beyond.
The soft-spoken teenager is part of a 27-strong Junior Pan Pacific Championships team that left for the United States this morning.
The meet, to take place in Hawaii from Aug 24-28, is the youth version of the senior international competition that is well participated by swimming powerhouse countries such as the US, Japan and Australia.
The 2016 edition of the Junior Pan Pacs will feature top juniors such as Australia's Minna Atherton and American Reece Whitley.
Glen will compete in the 400m and 1,500m free, and the 400m individual medley. He is also in line for the relays.
He said: "I am actually feeling a little scared because other people are faster than me, but I will try my best.
"My coaches have told me to swim my own race... I must believe in myself and not be afraid of other people.
"They (the top swimmers) are like us; they have been through the same thing as I will, where they swam against faster people."
Beyond the Junior Pan Pacs, Glen aims to break into the South-east Asia Games team for Kuala Lumpur next year, and is gunning for Teo Zhen Ren's national 1,500m free mark.
His personal best in the event now, the national U-14 mark, stands at 16min 36.38sec, while Teo's record stands at 15:43.08.
"I am thinking if I could break it next year or when I am 16. It would be good for me because I know I have been swimming hard," he said.
Qualifying for, and doing well at, the highest level will be his ultimate dream.
Glen said: "I would like to make it to the Olympics and qualify for the final of the 1,500m free."
Yeo: Swimming needs 'systemic' changes
BREAKTHROUGH: Joscelin Yeo (left) hopes Joseph Schooling’s (right) Olympic success can translate to more support for swimming. TNP PHOTO: CHOO CHWEE HUA
The local swimming scene is due for "systemic" changes in the next five years to ensure that Singapore can produce world-class swimmers.
These changes will address "gaps" in both the development of swimmers and coaches here, Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) vice-president (swimming) Joscelin Yeo told The New Paper earlier this week.
"We have seen gaps in terms of our long-term athlete development plan, as well as our long-term coaching plan, and they need to be addressed," said the 37-year-old former national swimmer.
"If they are not addressed, then we will lose a lot of swimmers somewhere in the middle, between learn-to-swim programmes and the high performance component; we lose a big chunk of them.
"Not everyone has the privilege of going overseas so there has to be a local solution, and I think that's something that we are hoping to provide."
The association is set to unveil its plans soon, and also to announce the replacement for national swim coach Sergio Lopez, with his current assistant Gary Tan highly tipped for the job.
Earlier this year, the SSA announced that it has five-year plans for each of its five disciplines - swimming, water polo, diving, synchronised swimming and open water swimming - to become world class.
The association is also working with the National Youth Sports Institute in grooming talented young swimmers, with former Swimfast Aquatic Club coach Leonard Tan appointed the youth institute's head swim coach.
Former national swimming captain Tan said: "I am feeling excited about the pipeline of talent coming through in swimming, but we have to make sure that they progress systematically and their training is carefully monitored.
"But, while plans are important, we must also not forget to build and maintain good coach-swimmer relationships,and help them develop as people as well."
Many people and businesses have been enthusiastic about Schooling's historic feat, with full-page advertisements taken in newspapers to congratulate him, and fast food set meals named after him or his Olympic timing.
Hordes of people have also turned up over the past week in the swimmer's public performances, in an unprecedented celebration of a individual athlete in this nation.
Yeo, a four-time Olympian, hopes all these will translate into more support for the association's programmes in the coming years.
She said: "I just hope it inspires people to believe that we can have a local sportsman who can really be at the top and win.
"I hope that we have more buy in from whoever it might be to help us push forward our next phase of development and creating a system where we can deliberately and purposefully identify talent.
"We don't want to just leave it to chance."
- LIM SAY HENG