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Chua Siang Yee
Friday, Sep 5, 2014

Sports

Swimming: Mindset key to team's success

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Friday, Sep 5, 2014

(Above, from left) World champion Jeanette Ottesen of Denmark with US Olympic gold medallists Nathan Adrian and Jessica Hardy at FUSE Marina Bay Sands yesterday. The three champions will be spearheading the Prudential Singapore Swim Stars 2014, a world-first three-day festival which begins on Friday.

With a record 228 swimming gold medals at the Olympics in the modern era, Team USA are a behemoth of the sport in every sense of the word.

Over the years, they have churned out a succession of stars, from Mark Spitz and Debbie Meyer to Matt Biondi, Janet Evans and Michael Phelps.

For US swimmers Jessica Hardy, 27, and Nathan Adrian, 25, there is little doubt about the secret to their success.

Said Hardy, a member of the gold medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay team at the 2012 London Olympics: "It's definitely the mindset we have as a team, to not disappoint the previous generations who have set an example of greatness. We feel pressure from them to not let them down.

"From a young age, swimmers in the development teams are made aware of our history in the sport.

"It's (also) more of a confidence in ourselves. When we walk out on a pool deck, we know that we're the best team... that's the big secret to our success."

Added Adrian: "It is our great culture of success, which breeds more success. We go in and we expect to at least fight for gold, and if at any minute we give up, that's failure."

It is this relentless pursuit of excellence that will see the swimmers squeeze every ounce of energy from their bodies at the inaugural Prudential Singapore Swim Stars, to be held at the 3,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre on Friday.

Both Adrian and Hardy had competed at the Pan Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast in Australia, a meet which ended last Monday.

And while the Singapore Swim Stars' unique straight-to-finals format across its nine events means less exertion for the swimmers, it also means there is less margin for error, especially since it will feature some of the biggest names in world swimming, such as double world record holder Ruta Meilutyte (50m and 100m breaststroke) and reigning world 100m freestyle champion James Magnussen.

But Hardy cannot wait to get into the pool, in particular, to race with familiar foe Meilutyte.

She said: "She's the first person in my entire career who's given me a challenge over the first 50m. I really enjoy this a lot, and it'll definitely raise my game.

Adrian believes world records might fall at this meet. Said the freestyle specialist: "With the high level of competition here, world records will take care of themselves."

Stephan Caron, partner at event organiser Sports Swim Organisation, said he was pleased with the line-up of swimmers, and promised an even more dazzling show next year.

Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Chad le Clos were rumoured to be heading here and Caron, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist (1988 and 1992) who represented France, said: "We talked to all of these swimmers, they would all like to come to Singapore (but) for various reasons, we couldn't make it work this year. We want to slowly build up (the hype).

"We'd like to eventually make this a tour with up to three legs. I'd love to have an event here and in the United Kingdom, hopefully next year."

The three-day swimming festival kicks off on Friday. The swimmers will hold clinics at 10 venues on Saturday before selecting a few students for a relay swim-off. It ends on Sunday with an open water challenge.

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 03, 2014.
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