13 February 18 The Straits Times by LIM SAY HENG
The last time the national swim team clinched more than one relay medal at the Asian Games, the Berlin Wall was still standing.
It was 1986 in Seoul, where Ang Peng Siong, David Lim, Oon Jin Teik and Oon Jin Gee finished third in the men's 4x100m freestyle. Lim, Tay Khoon Hean and the Oon brothers also claimed bronze in the 4x200m free relay.
The men's class of 2018 have what it takes to mirror the 1986 vintage, or even better it, National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan believes.
The former national swimmer said: "I am optimistic on every front: If we get the 4x100m swim right, a silver may even be a long shot; we want to win a medal in the 4x200m legitimately this time, and our medley can be strong if we get the breaststroke leg right."
At the 2014 Incheon Games, the men's 4x100m team were disqualified while the 4x200m free team were upgraded from fourth after South Korea, who finished third, were disqualified because Park Tae Hwan tested positive for a banned drug. Before that, Ang, Lim, Kenneth Yeo and Harold Gan were the last team to win a medal - 4x100m free bronze - at the 1990 Asiad.
The reason for Tan's optimism stems from the results from last weekend's national time trials at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Jonathan Tan (50.94sec), Danny Yeo (50.98sec) and Darren Chua (51.69sec) clocked respectable times in the men's 100m free. Jonathan and Glen Lim, who both turn 16 this year, clocked 1min 51.12sec and 1:51.94 respectively in the 200m free. Yeo, 27, and Pang Sheng Jun, 25, did 1:51.02 and 1:52.90 respectively.
On their own, the timings are nothing to shout about, but they were achieved after a week of intensive training, which includes a mix of race-pace sessions in the pool and heavy lifting in the gym.
"Compared to last year, the gym work is probably three times the intensity, the swimmers are doing more repetitions with heavier loads," Tan said.
32 Years since Singapore's swimmers won more than one relay medal at the Asian Games.
Such intensive training periods are followed by tapering before a major competition, where training loads are gradually reduced for the body to rest and recover.
If the tapering is done right, Tan believes his swimmers can shave two to three seconds off their 200m free timings, and about a second off their 100m free times.
In addition to the Singapore-based swimmers, Tan can count on US-based swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen.
Schooling and Quah clocked 49.25sec and 49.04sec respectively when Singapore won the 4x100m gold in a Games record of 3:17.85 at the SEA Games last year, which placed the Republic third in Asia last year, after Japan (3:13.65) and China (3:17.69).
Also, Schooling and Quah clocked 1:48.88 and 1:48.90 respectively when the Republic won the 4x200m relay in 7:18.94, only behind Japan (7:07.68) and China (7:15.62) on the continental level.
Tan added that the pool of five or six swimmers in each relay will push each other harder for a spot in the team, as they aim to qualify for the Aug 18-Sept 2 Indonesia Asiad at the Singapore National Age-Group Swimming Championships next month.
"I am fairly confident of achieving my target times next month," said Glen. "But I have to take good care of myself and not overdo things."