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SINGAPORE: The Choice of Champions


Triple Olympic Gold medallist Leisel Jones was impressed with the training facilities in Singapore. (Photo: SSC)

 

World renowned and Olympic gold medal winners such as Australia's Stephanie Rice and Leisel Jones and French Freestyle specialist Alain Bernard and Frederick Bousquet were in Singapore last month, making their final training preparations en route to the 14th FINA World Championships, held in Shanghai, China from 16 to 31 July 2011.

 

Joining them were more than 300 other swimmers, divers, and water polo players from 24 countries, including powerhouses Canada (swimming), Sweden (diving) and Hungary (water polo).

 

For some athletes, the World Championships will be their first ever taste of competition in Asia. Singapore, sharing the same time zone as Shanghai, having similar climates and urban landscape, and being a mere five and a hour flight away, makes it an ideal pit-stop for teams travelling from Africa, Europe, Australia and the Americas.

 

Since 2006, Singapore has been the preferred training destination, having hosted over 1500 world-class athletes from over 30 countries including famous stars like Ronaldhino and Michael Phelps.

 

Triple Olympic gold medallist Jones believes that the stint in Singapore will go a long way in helping the team prepare for the weather conditions in Shanghai.

 

“Dealing with humidity is a very difficult thing,” she said.

 

“We came from Melbourne where it is very cold and very dry, so it is essential to come to a place like Singapore.

 

“We are lucky to have come to Singapore. We have got great facilities here. There are so many 50m pools to choose from and Singapore has really looked after us.”

 

“We picked it perfect as the United States is in the Gold Coast for their training camp and it’s a long way away from Shanghai.

 

“We are lucky. We did it well to come here.”

 

Echoing her sentiments was Australia head coach Leigh Nugent.

 

“Singapore is an excellent place to start our preparations for the World Championships.

 

“We have a very nice relationship with the Singapore Sports Council and the various coaches here in Singapore.

 

“To be able to prepare in these pools is very pleasant. The environment is a pleasure for us to work in. We planned this a year ago and it has been nice. The weather hasn’t been too hot or humid and the pool temperatures have been controlled well.”

 

Australia were ranked fourth at the last world swimming championships in Rome in 2009, but Nugent insists they are not fixated on dislodging China or even the US.

"We need to maintain a top-four position at the World Championship, and higher than that at the London Olympics," he said. "We have a better team now than last year; 2011 is going to be a re-positioning for everyone and the platform to launch into the Olympics.

 

“The mood in the team is very good. There has been a good preparation for this World Championships. Not everyone from the team is here with some of them training in high altitudes in Mexico and Spain.

 

“The World Championships in Shanghai will be very significant and we hope to do our best there,” he added.

 

Expressing the value-add visiting teams bring when they come to train in Singapore, Bob Gambardella, Chief of Sports Development and Singapore Sports Institute, Singapore Sports Councils, commented, “Singapore also has a lot to gain from hosting these world-class teams. They bring with them experience, and knowledge that we will be able to tap into and share with the local sports fraternity.”

 

“Local coaches, officials, and athletes will get a chance to learn and share best practices and ideas from the best in their field. In addition, these sporting superstars will also be a source of inspiration and encouragement to aspiring young athletes in Singapore. This certainly contributes to the advancement of Sporting Singapore."