Swim coaches want more to qualify for Tokyo Olympics
Widmer & Tan's target: 5-6 swimmers and a relay team making Olympic 'A' cuts
National head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer and national training centre head coach Gary Tan are aiming for five to six swimmers to meet "A" qualification times for the Tokyo Olympics, as well as a relay team to make the cut.
They made the comments at the close of the Singapore National Olympic Qualifiers (SNOQ) yesterday. Over the four-day event, there were six "B" qualification times, but no one sealed their Tokyo spot with an "A" cut.
Quah Zheng Wen (100m butterfly and 100m backstroke) and Joseph Schooling (100m fly) are the only two local swimmers to have qualified for the July 23-Aug 8 Games next year.
At most, two athletes can represent their nation per event, should they meet the "A" cut. Alternatively, one swimmer per event can potentially qualify if they meet the "B" timing.
The swimmers who registered "B" cuts at the OCBC Aquatic Centre in the first Singapore Swimming Association-sanctioned meet since January were Teong Tzen Wei (50m freestyle and 100m fly), Jonathan Tan (50m and 100m free), Pang Sheng Jun (200m individual medley) and Quah Ting Wen (women's 50m free).
Said Gary Tan, 38: "Right now, on the cusp, we have only two. So, hopefully, in the long run we can have a couple more in there. Definitely we are looking at maybe five or six. That's a good target to have."
Widmer, 52, added: "On top of that, there is a chance for a relay 'A' cut, but we have to do that by March and our challenge is to get all the athletes into the same pool, obviously, with some based overseas...
"But a relay would still be one of the aims... Could be the 4x100m (free) relay girls or 4x200m (free) as well. There's some chances there, some very real chances."
The 4x200m quartet of Ting Wen, Gan Ching Hwee, Christie Chue and Quah Jing Wen came agonisingly close to sealing Singapore's first relay berth since 1996 at the Fina World Championships in July last year.
With the top 12 teams qualifying for Tokyo, they set a national record of 8min 8.44sec as they finished 13th in Gwangju, South Korea, just 0.06 seconds adrift of the hosts, who secured the last Olympic berth.
Four Olympic spots remain, and they will go to the four fastest teams who register times at Fina-approved qualifying events until May 31 next year.
Of the quartet, Texas A&M University undergraduate Jing Wen, 19, is currently based overseas, having returned to the United States in August.
Her elder sister Ting Wen, 28, and Teong have both said during the SNOQ that they are confident of sealing Olympic berths.
Ting Wen's national records in the 100m free (54.62) and 50m free (24.92) are 0.24sec and 0.15sec off the Olympic "A" qualification marks respectively.
Teong, 23, is targeting the 100m fly or 50m free, although the former would prove a more difficult proposition. He has to not only lower his 52.55sec time set last week to meet the Olympic "A" cut of 51.96sec, but also better the qualifying time of either Olympic champion Schooling (51.84) or Zheng Wen (51.87) to seal his Olympic berth.
Other swimmers who could potentially register "A" qualification times are 17-year-old Gan (1,500m free national record: 16:33.54, "A" cut: 16:32.04) and 18-year-old Jonathan Tan (50m free national record: 22.25, "A" cut: 22.01).
However, Gary Tan feels there is "a lot of room for improvement" for Singapore's swimmers. He said: "In the overall scheme of things, having six 'B' cuts is still far away from what we are targeting... We came in here with certain expectations...
"The best scenario was to have one or two 'A' cuts... but this is after all the second meet in almost 11 months for us and the results show we have a lot of cobwebs to dust off. There is a lot of room for improvement...
"Because of Covid-19, the swimmers had a very heavy load of training without competition... they had a three-day rest down and short taper. Hopefully, with a full taper, they will swim a lot faster."