Singapore’s artistic swimmers eye historic Asian Games medal

While their goal is to crack the top six after finishing seventh in 2018, the artistic swimmers are hopeful of bringing home Singapore’s first-ever medal in the sport at the Asian Games.

Kimberly Kwek

Kimberly Kwek

The Straits Times


Artistic swimmers Kiera Lee (from left), Vivien Tai and Claire Tan are hoping to win a medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

September 7, 2023

SINGAPORE – A new scoring system could see Singapore’s artistic swimmers twisting, tucking and fishtailing their way to a historic medal in just their second outing at the Asian Games.

Only three from the team who made their debut in the 2018 Jakarta Games remain, and the new-look side will compete in the duet technical, duet free, team free, team technical and acrobatic events in Hangzhou, China from Sept 23 to Oct 8.

Introduced in 2023 to make the judging process more objective, the new scoring system has since shaken up the order of things in the sport and the Singaporeans are looking to dive in.

At July’s world championships in Fukuoka, Singapore placed 13th overall and were ranked third in Asia in the team technical event behind Japan and China. The latter two finished fourth and seventh respectively in the final.

While their goal is to crack the top six after finishing seventh in 2018, the artistic swimmers are hopeful of bringing home Singapore’s first-ever medal in the sport at the Asian Games.

The Asiad is also an Olympic qualifier and the highest-ranked national Olympic committee will earn a quota spot.

Singapore captain Vivien Tai said: “That was an encouraging thing for us going into the Asian Games so, hopefully, we’ll be able to get a medal at the Asian Games.

“It came as a surprise because it was at the world championships, which is a pretty big competition, so all of us were pretty excited.”

Previously, 15 judges would score three components with different percentages.

However, with the change of rules, the difficulty will be determined mathematically based on what teams submit before the start of each routine, with a technical control group checking for errors and making deductions. Under the previous system, judges did not know what the teams would be doing in their routines.

Ten judges will now rate artistic impression and execution components, which will have the same value.

The national artistic swimmers believe that these changes give them the opportunity to improve their placing. Tai, 20, said: “The rankings (where teams finish) are very unpredictable, which can be a good thing because you don’t know what to expect going into a competition so you have to train hard and practise hard.”

Vice-captain Claire Tan said: “At the world championships, we expected to see a lot of the powerhouses still in their top spots but the rankings moved around quite a lot, so we got quite a shock.”

With the new rules, Daniel Campbell, sport director for diving and artistic swimming, noted that physical and aerobic fitness are key.

He said: “It’s critical to make sure the girls are in their peak physical shape as they lead into the Games with the increase in physical demands that the new rules have created.”

A challenge awaits in Hangzhou in two weeks and Kiera Lee, the Singapore contingent’s youngest athlete at 14, can hardly wait to make her Asiad debut.

The Methodist Girls’ School student said: “This is one of my first major competitions because I’ve only participated in two competitions, so this is very exciting because I’ve never actually had the chance to represent Singapore in these major Games.”

For fellow debutante Claire, a Singapore Sports School student, getting a medal would be a significant achievement.

The 19-year-old said: “At all our competitions, we’re looking to do our best and because this is such an important event, we want to do our country proud.

“Every athlete’s dream is to win a medal or hear their country’s national anthem being played, or the country’s flag on the podium, so we’ll be trying for that.”

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