07 April 2011

Singapore's Olympic preparations

UK training stint for Olympic hopefuls@Straits Times

SINGAPORE'S preparations for next year's Olympic Games in London have been stepped up, with a three-week training camp in England lined up for the country's best medal prospects.

A total of 40 athletes and 26 officials - from badminton, shooting, table tennis, swimming and the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) - will be based at the Surrey Sports Park this summer, a full year before the 2012 London Games.

Besides being the first time local athletes will train in the host Olympic country so far in advance, the presence of the SSC's sports medicine and sports science division will also simulate the conditions of a major multi-sports event.

'We've looked at the other top nations and have tried to adopt their best practices,' said SSC's chief of sports development group Bob Gambardella.

'It's vital that our athletes acclimatise themselves with the conditions as soon as possible.'

A second camp has also been scheduled for next summer, prior to the July 27-Aug 12 Games. Funding for both camps will be provided by the SSC.

The list of athletes for this subsequent stint will be finalised later, depending on the athletes' qualification for the Games.

The SSC had visited four training sites last year and picked the University of Surrey-based complex, which opened early last year. It is 50km south-west of Central London and a 11/2-hour drive from the Games Village.

It also boasts world-class sports facilities. 'They are clustered within one area, making it easy for athletes and officials to access,' noted Gambardella.

Such camps are common practice before major international meets. In 2008, the US swim team were based in Singapore for two weeks for an acclimatisation-cum-training camp before the Beijing Games.

Getting used to the weather and food at the competition venue is crucial, noted the Republic's top shuttler Derek Wong, part of the 10-man squad nominated by his association.

'Even small details are important,' he added. 'Like familiarising yourself with the area and finding a good jogging route to warm up before your tournament begins.'

Others who are likely to make the trip include Asian Games gold medallist and butterfly specialist Tao Li, Commonwealth Games shooting champions Jasmine Ser and Aqilah Sudhir and both the men and women's table tennis teams.

A Surrey base for Team Singapore@today

SINGAPORE - Reigning Olympic table tennis silver medallists Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu, Sun Beibei and Yu Mengyu will pack their bags for Surrey, England, in July as part of a Team Singapore contingent at a training camp ahead of next year's London Games.

Organised by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), the camp, one of two on the calendar, will help Olympic hopefuls experience and acclimatise themselves to London's weather before the 2012 Games, which will be held in London from July 27 to Aug 12.

The first training stint at the Surrey Sports Park will be held from July 27 to Aug 14 this year, with up to 40 athletes and 26 officials from four sports - badminton (10 athletes), shooting (10), swimming (8) and table tennis (12) - making the trip.

They will be accompanied by six support staff from the Singapore Sports Institute.

A second camp will be held from July 14 to 24 next year, with the size of the group to be confirmed closer to the date.

The two training stints, the first of its kind, will be funded by the SSC and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG). The LOCOG will give up to £25,000 (S$51,000) to each National Olympic Committee that sends a team to an approved pre-Games camp in Britain.

The SSC's search for a pre-Games training base featured four possible venues - Loughborough University in East Midlands, Malborough College in Wiltshire, Millfield School (Somerset) and the Surrey facility.

Bob Gambardella, the SSC's chief of Sports Development Group, said: "After careful evaluation, the Surrey Sports Park was chosen as it best met the training needs of Team Singapore.

"Their sport and supporting facilities are sports specific and are of international standards. Their facilities are also relatively new and clustered within one area, making it easy for athletes and officials to access.

"Of the four locations, the Surrey Sports Park is also the closest to the Olympic Games Village in east London, approximately an hour-and-half's drive away."

Built at a cost of £35 million and completed in April last year, the Surrey facility is home to a 50-metre indoor swimming pool, three multi-purpose sports halls, 10 grass and three artificial pitches, eight outdoor and indoor tennis courts, a 700-sqm fitness centre and a 60m sprint track.

It hosted the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup and is home to the Harlequins Rugby Club and Surrey Spartans Hockey Club.

Singapore Table Tennis Association president Lee Bee Wah gave the initiative the thumbs up.

"We have been looking around for places for our players to train (before the Olympics), so it is good to hear that SSC are coming out with this as it can save us some costs," said Lee. "We can also get other support like physiotherapists, psychologists and nutritionists, so it's very good."

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Team Singapore was represented in six sports - athletics, badminton, shooting, sailing, swimming and table tennis.

Singapore's sailors are expected to spend time acclimatising to conditions in Weymouth, when they compete in the Skandia Sail for Gold event and a pre-Games regatta this August.

No comments: