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Chua Siang Yee
Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sports

Locals to compete with Stars

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Saturday, May 24, 2014

Former national swimmer Joscelin Yeo leaps off the blocks during the 50m relay swimming demonstration at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Sports Hub. This was the first official preview of the Sports Hub venue where past and present national athletes tested out the pool for the first time.

Singapore swimmers are guaranteed a slot competing alongside some of the world's top names when the Singapore Swim Stars, a three-day swimming festival, gets under way in September.

Event organisers Sports Swim Organisation (SSO) confirmed yesterday to The Straits Times that there would be at least one local swimmer in each of the 10 events.

The Sept 5-7 competition, to be held at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub, will feature world champion James Magnussen (100m freestyle) and world record-holder Ruta Meilutyte (50m and 100m breaststroke) as well as three-time Olympic gold medallist Nathan Adrian.

The likes of Olympic gold medallists Ryan Lochte and Chad le Clos are also being courted by organisers as possible participants. Said Harald Eltvedt, partner at SSO: "We've been working with Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) from the get-go and it was always the plan to have local swimmers in the event.

"We are capping the number of international swimmers at eight per event, and with 10 lanes at the venue, we will leave it to SSA's high performance team if they want to fill up the remaining slots."

The participation of local swimmers is helped by the fact that the competition pool at the OCBC Aquatics Centre has two extra lanes available.

Initially, organisers were uncertain if they would be able to use all 10 lanes without flouting Fina rules, in the process rendering any potential world records invalid.

Swimming meets such as the Fina World Championships and the Fina Swimming World Cup use only eight lanes in their finals. However, Fina's general rules indicate that "heats, semi-finals and finals may be swum using 10 lanes".

Local swimmers are thrilled at the news, even if the competition takes place just before the Asian Games in South Korea, which has swimming lined up from Sept 21-26.

Current national 100m and 400m freestyle record-holder Danny Yeo told The Straits Times: "I don't know if I will be picked to swim in the event but this is still very good news.

"You don't get to race people like that normally, unless you go to the World Championships or the Olympics."

Yeo, who has met the SSA's 400m freestyle "A" qualifying time for the Asiad, added: "Those going to the Asian Games can use it as good race practice, and even pick up some tips from the world-class swimmers."

Besides the chance of competing against the world's top swimmers, the Republic's athletes can also look forward to the prospect of interactive workshops and clinics with the swim stars.

Local coaches could also benefit from coaching seminars held when the elite international swimmers and their respective entourages arrive in Singapore for the event.

Said SSA executive director Edwin Ker: "It's not just the swimmers. We are trying to get hold of the swimmers' schedules, whether their coaches are coming, and if it's possible to hold coaching seminars with the world-class coaches.

"This is one of the perks of having a world-class facility at home capable of hosting such events and we would not want to waste the opportunity."

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 22, 2014.
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