Singapore's top athletes resume their quest for Olympic glory
About 30 S'pore athletes to return to training from today, under controlled settings
From today, sporting venues across Singapore will welcome the return of around 30 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and qualifiers from 10 sports.
The training programmes of the athletes were in flux when circuit breaker measures to combat Covid-19 were implemented on April 7, resulting in the closure of sports facilities.
As the nation moves to Phase 1 of the post-circuit breaker period today, national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) said in a statement: "Athletes who have qualified or are close to qualifying for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will resume training under controlled conditions at selected venues from June 2."
Swimmers Quah Zheng Wen and Joseph Schooling, gymnast Tan Sze En and diver Jonathan Chan have all booked their spots for Tokyo.
Singapore will also be fielding representatives in shooting, sailing and table tennis, while shuttlers Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min are on course to qualify for the Olympics.
Loh and Yeo are 16th and 17th respectively in the men and women's Race to Tokyo rankings, and are in the frame to be among the 38 players to qualify in their respective divisions.
On her return to training at the OCBC Arena, Yeo said: "I'm really happy because it means that the virus situation in Singapore is getting better now...
"I'm also excited to see what effect two months of training at home has had on me."
World No. 59 women's foil fencer Amita Berthier has also been cleared to return to training at the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) from tomorrow.
Members of Singapore's para-cycling, para-archery, and para-swimming teams, including 2016 Paralympics gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu, will also be returning to training.
The Olympics were scheduled from July 24-Aug 9, but have been postponed to July 23-Aug 8 next year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, the Paralympics were moved from Aug 25-Sept 6 to Aug 24-Sept 5 next year.
Describing the "controlled conditions" that the athletes will return to training under, S. Parameswaran, SportSG's deputy director for public relations, said that they included physical distancing, temperature-taking, utilising the TraceTogether and SafeEntry apps for contract tracing and mask-wearing when not engaged in strenuous activities.
He added: "A maximum of five persons (inclusive of coaches and specialists) will be allowed at any point in time, and no socialising or group meals before, during or after training will be allowed."
LIMITED GROUP SIZES
Singapore Gymnastics said Tan and her coaches Gerrit Beltman and Wang Xi will be returning to training at Bishan Sports Centre today, while the Singapore Shooting Association has limited its training group sizes to five.
Said Singapore Gymnastics general manager Karen Norden: "Sze En's training programme has been carefully developed by her coaches, who are connecting with our chief medical officer and the SSI team to ensure that we can reduce any injuries that may occur when returning to training after such a long break out of the gym."
The paddlers will also return to training at the Singapore Table Tennis Association's Toa Payoh training hall today, with chief executive Wong Hui Leng highlighting that there would be no sharing of equipment and water bottles.
But Olympic-bound 49er FX skiff class sailors Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low have to wait a little longer to return to the seas.
Singapore Sailing Federation high performance manager Terence Koh said that further clearance from the National Parks Board, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and Ministry of Trade & Industry is needed.
Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy, meanwhile, said that athletes returning to training at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from today will not be allowed to take public transport to the venue.
They will also be required to shower at home and wear their swimming attire to the venue, with access to toilet facilities minimised.
Said national diver Chan: "The thing I missed most would be feeling satisfied after doing a good dive... and the light burn of the muscles after a good session.
"I definitely miss the water, the weather is too hot these days."