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Coaches Corner: Fernando Alegre

32-year old Fernando Alegre draws inspiration from his young sailors. (Photo: SSC)
 
Smart as a chess player and fit as a marathon runner. According to our 32-year-old national sailing coach Fernando Alegre, sailing is one of the toughest sports out there and for you to be the best that you can be and excel in the sport, you must possess a mixture of both brains and brawn.

 

“It is a very technical sport. You have to constantly adjust to the changes in the winds, tides and currents. You have to be extremely flexible as you need to move around the tiny boat without capsizing it,” said Alegre, as he jumped out of his seat and started demonstrating using the couch as a boat to this reporter in the National Sailing Centre's Library.

 

Alegre is more than willing to dispense coaching advice to anyone who is willing to listen. With more than 14 years of coaching experience, he has been in charge of young budding sailors who pilot smaller class boats known as the Optimist. During his five years in charge of the Singapore Optimist team, his stable of sailors has claimed a podium finish in every international regatta the republic has taken part in.”

 

With the upcoming 21st International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) Asian Championship to be held in the waters off East Coast from 22nd July till 30th July 2011, Alegre is confident of the republic's chances.

 

“Eight of the top ten Optimist sailors are Asians. It will not be easy as we expect very strong competition in next month's championship but we are confident of our chances. The waters around East Coast are not easy to navigate but the sailors are aware that this is our 'house' and they are ready to give a 100%.”

 

With some of the best sailors in the world leading Singapore's charge to glory, Alegre is indeed quietly confident.

 

Led by Kimberly Lim, the 2010 IODA Asian Champion and Asian Games silver medallist, together with Bryan Lee, Ryan Lo and Elisa Yukie Yokoyama, the silver medallist in the Optimist team racing category in the IODA World Sailing Championship, chances of a great showing is on the cards.

 

The 14-year-olds have achieved consistent results over the years as they helped establish the island nation's dominance in the sport. With the Southeast Asian Games and the IODA World Sailing Championship to be held later this year, it will be a great platform for them to compete against some of the world's best sailors, including defending champions, Thailand and runners up Malaysia next month.

 

A long term training plan was put in place by Singapore Sailing in 2008 with their eyes are focused and set on the Olympics in 2012. At the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, Sailing brought home two golds, two silvers and four bronzes.

 

With the help of Alegre, who had a hand in implementing a sustainable training system specific to the Optimist class, Kimberly and Bryan were able to win silver and bronze respectively at the 2010 Asian Games.

 

The passionate Peruvian embodies the competitiveness shown by his young charges and it is easy to get swept away by his enthusiasm for the sport. Coaching is more important than technical ability and reading the changes in wind and tide for him. He makes an effort to show the youngsters the importance of values, discipline and a champion's mindset.

 

“Children are competitive by nature. My job is to channel that competitiveness into the sport the right way. Sometimes I don’t have to push them too hard as they understand the culture of the sport in Singapore.”

 

So much so that he looks to Yukie and Kimberly as his role models. He identifies with them because just like him, they have the fire to succeed despite the obstacles they face.

 

“Before a recent regatta, Yukie's hand was covered in blisters after getting into a go-kart accident. Despite the pain, she insisted on sailing, and every night we had to replace her soaked bandages with clean ones. Tears would stream down her cheeks and yet every morning, there she was, at the starting flag, ready to compete.”

 

For those keen to learn more about sailing, please visit http://www.sailing.org.sgg/sailing/highparticipation/courses.php