SINGAPORE — The Republic’s top two swimmers, Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, will likely compete in fewer events at this year’s Southeast-Asian (SEA) Games as compared to the previous edition on home soil two years ago.
Both Schooling and Quah, who are currently studying and training in the United States, competed in nine and 12 events respectively at the 2015 Games in Singapore.
The duo accounted for more than half of the 23 gold medals that Singapore’s swimmers won — Schooling brought home six individual gold medals, while Quah secured four — and both of them also helped the Republic clinch the top prize in the three men’s relay events.
However, national swim coach Gary Tan revealed that Schooling and Quah are likely to have a more relaxed schedule at this year’s SEA Games, as it comes just a month after July’s Fina World Championships — a competition which both swimmers are expected to take part in.
“There is a probability that both Joseph and Zheng Wen will be swimming fewer events at the SEA Games this year,” said Tan, a former national swimmer. “Joseph is focused mainly on the World Championships, and rightly so, because I think someone of his and Zheng Wen’s stature are at the level where they should be aiming for bigger things.
“Of course, the SEA Games remain a part of the equation and is still very important to them. But they’ll be headed into this year’s Games straight after the world champs and a tough season, so for us, we’ll definitely need to manage their fatigue level.
“We should also let the younger guys come into the fray to see whether they can step up, because we want to have a bigger spread of swimmers achieving the gold medal and going on the podium.”
Tan conceded that it could be tougher for Singapore to dominate the pool in the women events again, especially as Tao Li — who has 29 SEA Games gold medals to her name — could give the biennial competition a miss this year.
Singapore won 10 of the 19 women’s events at the SEA Games the last time.
Nonetheless, Tan believes his younger female swimmers such as sisters Quah Ting Wen and Jing Wen, as well as Christie Chue, will be able to fill any gap left by Tao.
“It’s more or less status quo for the women swimmers, with the only exception being Tao Li,” said Tan. “She contributed five gold medals previously and helped out a fair bit on the relays as well.
“But I’m quite optimistic that the younger girls like Ting Wen will be able to step up to the plate. It’ll be tough, but what’s SEA Games without a challenge?”
Tan added that next month’s Singapore National Age Group (Snag) Swimming Championships will be the final qualifying event for locally-based swimmers to book their spot at the SEA Games.
The swimmers who post the top two times — it must at least meet the bronze-medal mark from the 2015 Games — in each event will be nominated by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) for this year’s Games.
Tan was speaking on the sidelines of a sponsorship contract signing ceremony between the SSA and Liberty Insurance at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Friday (Feb 17).
The bulk of the four-year cash and in-kind sponsorship deal will go towards supporting the SSA’s initiatives to groom the next generation of swimmers.
In addition, Liberty Insurance has been named as SSA’s official insurance partner, and this will see it provide coverage for athletes, staff, volunteers, technical officials and spectators.