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Swim body happy despite smaller field

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Sunday, May 25, 2014

Swimming Championships to be held at the new OCBC Aquatic Centre next month

SINGAPORE - Despite the second edition of the South-east Asian (SEA) Swimming Championships to be held at the new OCBC Aquatic Centre next month, it will likely see fewer competitors than 2012's inaugural edition.

The number of athletes confirmed for the June 14-26 event has dropped from 262 to 200. Myanmar, which hosted last year's SEA Games, has opted to sit out the meet entirely.

However, Singapore Swimming Association president Jeffrey Leow is unperturbed by the dip in numbers.

The 63-year-old, who is also president of the SEA Swimming Federation (SEASF), explained: "We are generally happy with the response."

Myanmar said they wanted to focus on building up the sport internally, while Indonesia have not confirmed their numbers, because they are holding their selections this weekend.

"But we knew it would not be like in 2012, simply because that edition had (the incentive of being an) Olympic qualifying event."

The inaugural edition in 2012, held at the Singapore Sports School and Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, was the last meet for swimmers in the region to qualify for the London Olympics.

Although the Asian Games take place in September, their qualifying criteria is set by individual countries, unlike the Olympics which require swimmers to meet qualifying times.

Accommodation costs and expenses could also have affected participation numbers for the SEA Swimming Championships.

In 2012, the Malaysian water polo players had to fork out $250 each to come here and compete. They also stayed at Outram Secondary School - with whom they have good relations - for free.

Said Leow: "The accommodation and food costs are very high. Unfortunately, the reality is that (Singapore is) a really expensive place for many (competitors)."

The SEASF congress will meet during the championships and discuss how to improve participation, such as settling on an ideal time frame to fit all countries' schedules.

However, Leow stressed the meet is still relevant to the region. He said: "The federation decided we needed to have a meet between each SEA Games. We're only at the second (edition). After we've had this event for a few editions, it will gain credibility."

The championships, sponsored by TYR, will be the first international event at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. It will feature the four aquatic disciplines - water polo, swimming, diving and synchronised swimming - and will serve as a dry run for next year's SEA Games.

Tickets go on sale today at sportshubtix.sg, and cost $10 (day) and $60 (season pass). Entry is free on the opening day (June 14) and final three days.


This article was first published on May 23, 2014.
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