Coach: Speed skater Lucas must train overseas to fulfil Olympic dream
Republic's top skater must train overseas in bid to qualify for Olympics, says coach
Speed skater Lucas Ng has been the Republic's trailblazer in winter sports - he was the first Singaporean to compete at the Asian Winter Games in 2011, and he is the first Singaporean to qualify for the World Championships.
The 27-year-old has also won four bronzes at the Asian Open Short Track Speed Skating Trophy in the last two years, and will be among the Republic's medal hopefuls at next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Malaysia, where the winter sport is included for the first time.
But, when it comes to qualification for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Ng is still some way off the mark, said national coach Chun Lee Kyung.
The 40-year-old mother of three should know better - she is a four-time Olympic champion and a nine-time world champion during her skating days.
The South Korean was recruited by the Singapore Ice Skating Association (Sisa) last November, after she moved to Singapore with her family in January last year.
Her mission is to get Singapore's skaters up to scratch.
"My final goal is to send him to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, so this year and next year very important for him," said Chun yesterday on the sidelines of the inaugural two-day Tri-Series South-east Asia Cup at The Rink at JCube - Singapore's only Olympic-sized skating rink.
"I'd like for him to train in Korea or other countries, although we are not sure of that yet. He will at least be in Korea training for two weeks before the World Championships next month."
"There is a big gap between him and skaters from the top countries, and it will not be easy because he is on ice only twice a week," Chun added of Ng, who trains six times a week but only twice on ice.
"Ideally, he should be training on ice four or five times a week, but we will try to catch up."
Ng, who runs his own sports merchandise business and is also a coach at The Rink, believes he and his teammates have progressed in the short time Chun has been in charge.
"I feel I have improved quite a lot... in terms of technique and how I compete," said Ng, who won three golds at the two-day tournament, including the men's 1,000m final yesterday.
"She has passed on some of her vast knowledge and experience and, hopefully, we can hold on to those and make ourselves skate faster.
"For me, there is still a lot of room for improvement and I don't think I have reached my peak yet."
Winter Olympics aside, with his achievements in a region where speed skating is still a nascent sport, Ng will definitely be a strong medal contender for next year's SEA Games.
But coach and athlete were understandably cautious about talking up Ng's medal chances, as he will face fierce competition from skaters from Malaysia and Thailand, which along with Singapore, are considered the pioneering nations in speed skating in the region.
Chun said: "So far, Lucas is No. 1 in South-east Asia, but we can't be sure because we have another year to go, and countries like Malaysia and Thailand can improve a lot, since their skaters have been spending time abroad for training. But we will do our best."
The inaugural Tri-Series tournament - which also includes stops in New Zealand (March 19 and 20) and Australia (April 23 and 24) - may not feature world-class skaters, but it has helped Sisa promote the sport in a country where resources - both in facilities and finances - are limited.
The Rink at JCube in Jurong is open to the public and is also used by the Republic's speed and figure skaters, as well as the national ice hockey team.
The lack of a second rink limits Sisa from hosting more regional and international events, but Singapore's hosting of the Tri-Series has given Sisa president Sonja Chong hope that more Singaporeans will warm up to the idea of sports on ice.
She said: "It is the first time we have done something like this for the Asia Pacific. We are very pleased that the ISU (International Skating Union) has put their trust in Singapore to host this competition, and we hope Singapore can be a centre of excellence in short-track skating."