Swimming: Jonathan Tan heads to Stanford with Paris 2024 Olympics in his sights
The disappointment of missing out on the Olympics is a feeling that swimmer Jonathan Tan never wants to feel again.
Competing at the Singapore National Swimming Championships Invitationals (Major Games Qualifier) in 2021, the 20-year-old missed out on a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Games by 0.1 seconds after his 22.12 seconds in the men’s 50m freestyle.
He has since put the incident behind him and turned his focus to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
And to help him reach his goal, Tan has enrolled in Stanford University on a partial scholarship in order to immerse himself in a more competitive environment.
“At that point in time, it was quite disappointing, it was 0.1 (seconds),” said Tan in an interview at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. “I delayed my enlistment for that as well, it did feel like I wasted seven to eight months of my time.
“But it also made me stronger in the sense that swimming doesn’t always produce the results you want and it’s about how I get back. I feel more motivated now because I know that feeling and I wouldn’t want to feel like that again.”
Stanford was Tan’s first choice as he felt that it would allow him to concentrate on swimming and academics.
The four-gold SEA Games swimmer was also in contact with Stanford coach Dan Schemmel, who followed his results from the end of 2021 through to 2022.
“I really wanted to have a balance between swimming and academics,” said the freestyle specialist, who will enrol at Stanford in September after he completes his national service in July.
“I also wanted to have that overseas experience, the independence, taking care of myself, maybe just see the world in that sense.”
Having the opportunity to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 – the highest level of college competition in the United States – was also a key reason for Tan choosing Stanford.
Stanford are eight-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 men’s champions, with their last title coming in 1998, while their women’s team have won the championship 12 times.
American Katie Ledecky, who has won seven Olympic golds and 19 world titles, is among Stanford’s alumnae.
Tan said: “It’s a different world. They have a bigger depth of swimmers and there are definitely more swimmers who’ve made the Olympics in the US.
“I will be racing against faster swimmers as well and on a bigger scale. That should motivate me more to train harder.”
Stanford’s strong business programme was also an important factor for Tan, who intends to pursue a career in finance.
Hearing how fellow national swimmers enjoyed their time while studying in the United States also validated his decision.
Among those who have done so are Singapore’s Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling (University of Texas), while Christie Chue and Gan Ching Hwee are enrolled at Florida International University and Indiana University respectively.
It will be a busy year for Tan as he works on qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The qualification window for the Paris Games opens on March 1. The major competitions that will serve as qualifiers include the Cambodia SEA Games in May, July’s World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka and the Sept 23-Oct 8 Asian Games in Hangzhou.
He said: “Last year was quite rough because there were certain periods when I couldn’t train, so I would pick up a little then drop off again.
“This year will be better in terms of scheduling between national service and swimming, and hopefully I will have a long, smoother road of a solid training block before each competition.”