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Young guns make their mark

SINGAPORE — Social media sites Facebook and Twitter were abuzz in the early morning of July 28, and throughout the day, as thousands posted and commented on news of swimmer Joseph Schooling’s silver medal win in the men’s 100m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a historic first for any Singaporean swimmer at the quadrennial event.

SINGAPORE — Social media sites Facebook and Twitter were abuzz in the early morning of July 28, and throughout the day, as thousands posted and commented on news of swimmer Joseph Schooling’s silver medal win in the men’s 100m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, a historic first for any Singaporean swimmer at the quadrennial event.

 

Some current stars

 

Still only 19, swimmer Schooling could join legends such as Patricia Chan, Joscelin Yeo and Ang Peng Siong in the Hall of Fame.

His 100m fly final time of 51.69secs puts him fourth in this year’s FINA world rankings, behind South African star Chad le Clos — who won the final in 51.29s — Russia’s Viacheslav Prudnikov (51.60s) and American superstar Michael Phelps.

It was also the fastest time clocked by an Asian swimmer this year, putting him in a good position ahead of next month’s Asian Games in Incheon.

Schooling’s silver medal performance was probably one of the best by a Singapore swimmer since team-mate Tao Li, who made waves at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after finishing fifth in the women’s 100m fly.

The 24-year-old is now gunning for a three-peat in the 50m fly at next month’s Asian Games after wins in 2006 and 2010. Shooter Jasmine Ser is another to look out for, as the 23-year-old aims to win Singapore’s first Olympic medal in the sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games proved a stern test of Ser’s mental fortitude, as she bounced back from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the 10m rifle singles to claim gold in the 50m rifle three positions.

 

Our Olympic heroines

 

It was 40 years before Singapore tasted success again at the Olympic Games after Tan Howe Liang’s weightlifting silver in Rome in 1960, with the national women’s table tennis team clinching the silver in Beijing in 2008, before winning two bronze medals in the women’s team and singles in London four years later.

While veterans Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu announced their retirements after the London Games, Feng, 27, has soldiered on and will lead her team-mates in Singapore’s next three major Games assignments: The 2014 Asian Games, 2015 SEA Games and 2016 Olympics.

 

Outside the Olympics

 

Non-Olympic sports also have an important place in the Singapore sporting landscape.

Three-time billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist created history at this year’s Irish Open, becoming the first player in the history of EBOS and WBL (English Billiards Open Series and World Billiards Limited) to record a 1,000 break when he defeated England’s Christian Kirk 1,175-130.

The achievement in Dublin also saw him become the first player to record two 1,000 breaks in his career. Gilchrist was named the Sportsman of the Year in June.

Silat and bowling have also produced world champions, with silat exponent Muhd Shakir Juanda clinching gold at the World Championship in the match class I (85-90kg) in Chiang Rai in 2012, while bowler Shayna Ng won the 48th QubicaAMF World Cup in Poland in the same year.

 

What’s next?

 

Teenagers such as World Cup winner Martina Lindsay Veloso (shooting), paddler Isabelle Li, swimmer Quah Zheng Wen, sprinter Shanti Pereira and footballer Adam Swandi are making significant strides in their respective sports.

Former national shooter and three-time Olympian Lee Wung Yew believes the future is positive.

“She has youth on her side and she only took a few years to perform at this level, so I do think she has a long career ahead of her. If you look at some of the shooters in her event, some of them are in their late 40s to early 50s, so she can go very far,” said Lee.

“(The younger generation) seem to have a stronger passion and are more focused on the sport itself. They have a lot of confidence even when competing with the world’s best at global competitions because they have the best training, with dedicated professional trainers, so it gives them confidence when they compete.”

Similarly, former Singapore national footballer R Sasikumar believes youngsters such as footballer Adam Swandi, who is on a two-year stint at the academy of French side FC Metz, and Commonwealth Games swimming silver medallist Joseph Schooling represent the country’s future.

“It’s a huge encouragement to the young ones and also to the parents that children can pursue sports as a career since Singapore is really breaking barriers,” said Sasikumar. “We need to amplify their achievements and make them household heroes.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JEAN IAU

 

ATHLETE PROFILES:

Joseph Schooling (swimming)

Age: 19

The teenager, who joins the University of Texas this month, won six golds at last year’s SEA Games in Myanmar and Singapore’s first swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with a silver in the men’s 100m butterfly. It further enhanced his reputation of Singapore’s top male swimmer, and his chances of reaching a final at the 2016 Olympics, possibly in the 100m fly or 200m fly.

 

Tao Li (swimming)

Age: 24

The two-time Sportswoman of the Year (2007, 2008) became the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final in Beijing in 2008, when she finished fifth in the women’s 100m butterfly. She is hoping it will be third-time lucky in her pet event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

 

Feng Tianwei (table tennis)

Age: 27

Feng’s trophy cabinet is packed with numerous titles, including a silver (women’s team) and two bronze (women’s team, women’s singles) from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics respectively.

Now captain of the national women’s team, Feng was also part of Singapore’s women’s team that shocked China to win the 2010 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Moscow.

 

THE YOUNG ‘UNS

Martina Lindsay Veloso (shooting)

Age: 14

Shocked the international shooting fraternity by defeating 2008 Olympic champion Katerina Emmons of the Czech Republic in the women’s 10m air rifle at the ISSF World Cup in Munich in June. The Singapore Sports School student-athlete is touted as a medal hopeful at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing this month.

 

Shanti Pereira (athletics)

Age: 17

The Republic Polytechnic student has been in blistering form over the past two years, setting national records in the 100m (11.89s) and 200m (23.99s) in 2013 and 2014 respectively. She also competed at this year’s Asian Junior Athletics Championships, winning the bronze in the women’s 100m and was second in the 200m.

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