Swimming body eyes top-four ranking in Asia
Dozens of athletes and coaches took turns to go on stage to receive awards at the Singapore Swimming Association's Awards Night at the Shangri-La Hotel last night.
It told the success story last year, where the aquatic athletes contributed 26 golds to Singapore's 84-gold haul at the South-east Asia Games on home ground, while Olympic-bound Joseph Schooling scored a historic bronze in the men's 100 butterfly at the Fina World Championships.
On the back of a bumper season, SSA president Lee Kok Choy (above) announced last night an ambitious goal - to bring Singapore up to the top four nations in Asia.
In his opening speech, he said: "We have put in place five-year plans for each discipline and high performance pathways.
"For all our aquatic disciplines, we aim to be top four in Asia, as well as making a strong push towards the 2020 Olympic Games."
China ruled the pool at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon with 36 golds, while Japan were a distant second with 12 golds, and Kazakhstan had four titles to their name.
Singapore scored a gold, two silvers and three bronzes, all from the pool, and finished fourth, by virtue of the number of gold medals, although South Korea have more medals overall (seven).
Lee reckons China and Japan are in a league of their own, while the Republic are in the chasing pack which includes Kazakhstan and South Korea.
He said: "We are trying to get to a point where we are better than one or two of them... it is possible for (all four disciplines) to be clearly in the top four but, for a start, we will aim to be top four as a whole."
Of the five disciplines under SSA's purview - swimming, water polo, synchronised swimming, diving and open-water swimming - swimming is the most mature of them all, with the likes of Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen hitting Olympic "A" qualifying marks for Rio this year.
Swimming also has a high-performance team stocked with the likes of national coach Sergio Lopez, national assistant coach Gary Tan and high-performance manager Sonya Porter.
Water polo seems promising as well, with the men's team finishing fifth of seven teams at the last Asiad.
However, the synchronised swimmers displaced Malaysia as South-east Asia's top country only at last year's SEA Games, while diving is still a fairly new discipline, after it was resurrected ahead of the 2010 Youth Olympics here.
"Each discipline will have a different plan - for example for water polo, we are starting a very vibrant club-based approach for the juniors, and then sparring programmes and injection of new talent for the national squad," said Lee, who is gunning for re-election as president at the upcoming annual general meeting.
"For synchronised swimming, we are getting a top coach from Canada to come in as our consultant, and she's coached Olympic champions before.
"For some disciplines, the jump (into the top four) will be a long one."
LIM SAY HENG