The sailors are back on the podium, the junior sailors to be exact. The team of 10 junior sailors ages ranging from 12 to 15 years old just completed a week long of races at the IODA (International Optimist Dinghy Association) Asian and Oceanian Championship in Mumbai, India. Supported by the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), the junior team was sent by the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) with the intention to develop a broad base of sailors to be ready for more high performance training when they progress into the youth stage of the Olympic pathway.
“We have been adjusting the balance between development and performance for the juniors sailors and we are glad to report that we have the squads back on track, regaining the winning form which our top senior sailors themselves have laid similar foundations for their successes.” Says Chung Pei Ming, Head of Performance and Coaching.
With outgoing National Coach Somkiat Poonpat who ends his 4 year stint with SSF this December leading the team, he promised to deliver a surprise in the weeks leading up to the event. A fine surprise indeed with the team victorious in the Team Championships which took place mid-way during the event with sailor Ethan Chia and Nicole Lim leading first and second place in the individual fleet racing standings. Following two final days of racing, the duo was caught by Chanatip Tongglum (THA) and finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Fellow sailors also finished credibly beside them, Amos Tham 4th (tied points with Nicole), Ian Goh in 8th and Yap Swee Dean in 9th.
The team’s overall performance of winning the team title and having the top 5 individual sailors finishing within top 10 of 101 competitors and the 10th sailor in the 44th position shows that the depth of the squad has lifted significantly. The last time the Singapore Sailing Team returned with multiple silverwares from the IODA Asian Championship was 2017 when Daniel Kei and Faith Hailey Toh won the Open and Girl’s title respectively. Prior to that in 2016, Daniel Kei also took the Open title and Jodie Lai took the Girl’s title and the team finished 2nd in the Team Racing Championship.
“To have success at the Olympic level, we need sailors to be successful across the pathway. Initially to taste success as junior sailors, then to repeat success and build confidence as youth sailors, before stepping up to an Olympic campaign with the ideal foundations laid, a champion’s culture” Stanley Chan, Chairman of the SSF Olympic Pathway Taskforce highlighted.
“While we adjusted the program to ensure we developed all rounded and adaptable sailors, we always believed that a winning culture has to remain core to high performance and long term development. This is a team effort from the sailors, coaches, parents, SSF and SSI, without any piece, it just will not work as a system.” Lincoln Chee, President of SSF highlighted.
Sherman Cheng, multiple Asian and SEA Games gold medallist and 420 World Champion, takes over as head Optimist coach from 2023. Sherman having been understudying Somkiat for the past 4 years looks forward to continue the current form of the squad, having lead the squads to the successful stints in 2016 and 2017.
“Optimist is the boat that all our Singapore bred sailing world champions and major games medallists learnt their basics from. This is where we developed our passion for sailing, for competing, meeting our new friends from overseas and racing against them until we grow up as adults. I’m proud to be entrusted to be in the position to lay the foundations for our future champions and to plant the seeds for our future Olympians” Sherman Cheng, incoming Optimist Head Coach.
Final Individual Standings:
Ethan Chia – 2nd Open
Nicole Lim – 3rd Open, 1st Girl Amos Tham – 4th Open
Ian Goh – 8th Open
Yap Swee Dean – 9th Open Eitan Oh – 12th Open
Aurick Leow – 17th Open Cheryl Yong – 30th Open
Nia Mehry Zahedi – 42nd Open Zach Low – 44th Open