Time on Samantha's side
Joyce Lim
Sun, Dec 20, 2009
The New Paper

AT 12, JOSCELIN Yeo made her debut at the 1991 SEA Games in Manila.

Although she did not win a gold medal that year, she returned with a clutch of silvers and bronzes.

Till her last SEA Games in 2005, Yeo had won a total of 40 gold medals at the Games.

Like Yeo, Samantha Louisa Yeo Ginn, made her debut at this year's SEA Games, at 12.

Samantha was the youngest member of the Team Singapore contingent.

Even though Samantha did not win any medal in her maiden foray into the Games, she managed to break the Under-14 national record in the 200m breaststroke, when she clocked 2:36.04.

She was just 0.25 seconds behind the bronze-medallist, Vietnam's Pham Thi Hue.

No medal, but there is still plenty to savour for the CHIJ St. Nicholas student.

Earlier in July this year, Samantha had set a new national record of 1:14.05 in the 100m breaststroke at the 50th Milo Inter-Primary School Swimming Championships 2009.

Said Samantha: 'I am happy with what I have achieved, but I can't help being a little disappointed that I didn't win any SEA Games medal. I've done my best.

'Next year, there will still be the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games which I hope to have a chance to try my best.

'I really want to turn professional. I want to go to the Olympics. I want to be one of the few Singaporeans to reach the highest level.'

A member of ACE Swim Club, Samantha has also been in the Ministry of Education's Junior Sports Academy swim programme at the Singapore Sports School for the last two years, with this year being under the guidance of the school's head coach, Clive Rushton.

Said Rushton: 'Both the heats swim and the final were excellent exhibitions of Samantha's ability to rise to the challenge. She just missed out on a medal by two tenths of a second but, in the long run, that will help her as so-called 'success' at 12 can give swimmers a false impression of what it takes to gain meaningful success on the international stage.'

Rushton noted how Samantha has exhibited a very 'mature' approach to competition even though she still has a long way to go in terms of physical development.

He said: 'Her breaststroke technique is excellent but she still continually strives for perfection - which is a terrific trait to see in any young swimmer.

'Samantha's next focus should be on improving all her strokes and distances and, maybe, breaking into the top-150 swimmers.'

Quah Ting Wen's swim coach David Lim, who had watched Samantha swim in Laos, feels that the young lass could excel beyond the SEA Games if she picks the right programme to nurture her talent.


Said Lim: 'Right now, Samantha may be one of the better young swimmers. In my 20 years of coaching, I have seen too many young ones breaking national records, but when they reached their teens, they faded out.

'The path which Samantha chooses to take in the next few years will determine how far she can go. She probably needs to reset some of her goals. She is still so young, there's so much more to develop and nurture.'

Indeed, Samantha - who completed her Primary School Leaving Examinations this year - is at a crossroad right now.

Her father, Steven Yeo, told The New Paper that she has been offered a position at the Singapore Sports School and Raffles Girls School next year.

Said Yeo, 52, an underwriter in a re-insurance firm: 'Samantha is very self-motivated and independent. She would go train at the pool on her own.

'When she was in Primary One, she was swimming with the school's swim team. She set her first record in Primary Four and she now holds three school records, besides the two Under-14 national records.

'My wife and I have left it to her to decide which school she wants to go to. But as parents, we are worried that she may end up stressing herself over school work if she wants to pursue swimming. Because, knowing her, she would want to do well in both.'

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