Joseph Schooling, Feng Tianwei, Quah Ting Wen — these are familiar faces Singaporeans have supported and cheered on at international competitions and the Olympic Games over the past years. And at the upcoming Tokyo Games, Singaporeans can look forward to these seasoned competitors making their mark in their chosen sport.
But at the same time, Singapore’s young athletes have proven their worth, with an astounding 17 out of the 23-athlete strong contingent making their Olympic debut this year.
It is also the first time that Team Singapore has earned the right to compete across 12 sports — surpassing the seven sports Singapore competed in at the 2016 Games and nine in 2012.
Singapore’s representation in diving, equestrian and marathon swimming this year is also unprecedented. If that’s not worth being chuffed about, we don’t know what is.
The path to the Tokyo Olympics, which had been postponed from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has been fraught with uncertainties, but the Games are slated to go ahead from July 23 till Aug 8.
Team Singapore officials have said they will do their utmost to ensure the safety of athletes, with every member of the team fully vaccinated. The team arrived in Japan on June 27 and have been based in the city of Shimada in Shizuoka prefecture.
All eyes within the next few week will undoubtedly be on Schooling, 26, in hopes that he will defend his Olympic gold medal in the 100m butterfly. But regardless of the outcome, we’d be sure to be cheer on all of our Team Singapore athletes next month, and a victorious homecoming will simply be another feather in the cap for our National Day celebrations come Aug 9.
Who: Veronica Shanti Pereira, 24
Event: Women’s 200m Sprint
Pereira is the only representing athlete for Singapore this year in the sport of Track & Field. The Singapore Management University graduate qualified for the Olympics through a wild card placement, as she was the highest ranked female athlete for the event. The 24-year-old currently holds the national records in the women’s 100m and 200m sprints. The Olympics marks her first high-level race in the 200m since the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Who: Loh Kean Yew, 24
Event: Badminton – Men’s Singles
World No. 42 Loh has his sights on winning a medal for Singapore at his maiden Olympics. The furthest that the nation has reached in the Olympics for badminton was when Ronald Susilo advanced to the final eight in Athens 2004. The Penang-born shuttler was a silver-medallist in the men’s singles at the 2019 SEA Games, and made heads turn when he defeated two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan at the Thailand Masters. The 24-year-old will also be the flag-bearer for Singapore, along with paddler Yu Mengyu, at the opening ceremony.
Who: Yeo Jia Min, 22
Event: Badminton – Women’s Singles
Yeo began playing badminton at the age of seven, which ignited her love for the sport. In a sign of greater things to come, she topped the Badminton World Federation (BWF) junior world rankings at the age of 18, making her the first Singaporean to do so. In 2019, she reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships and also took home the 2019 Hyderabad Open Women’s Singles title. In an interview with BWF last year, she expressed, “I’ve still not achieved what I want to, there’s still a lot of things I can work on and improve on to bring out the best in me.”
Diving – Aquatics
Who: Jonathan Chan, 24
Event: Diving – Men’s 10m Platform
Chan is the first Singaporean diver to qualify for the Olympics, following his excellent performance in the 10m platform final at the 2019 Asian Diving Cup in Kuala Lumpur. Chan started out in gymnastics at the age of five, but switched to diving after. His sister, Kimberly Chan, 27, was also a former national diver. But Chan feels no pressure for the upcoming competition. “I am going into the Games really to enjoy the whole experience rather than stress out or be stressed about [getting a medal].”
Who: Freida Lim, 23
Event: Diving – Women’s 10m Platform
Following teammate Chan’s feat, Lim received word that she had qualified for the Olympics late in the game, on June 22. This makes her the first female diver ever in Singapore’s history to qualify for the Olympics. Lim’s coach has set a target for her to do well enough to qualify for the semi-finals at the Games. However, Lim has stated, “If I can go anywhere close to my best, I’ll be very happy.”
Who: Caroline Rosanna Chew, 27
Event: Equestrian – Individual Dressage
Chew will go down in history as the first athlete to represent Singapore in equestrian at the Olympics. The SEA Games medallist received the opportunity due to a last-minute withdrawal by New Zealand.
At the Dressage Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, which decided who the replacement for New Zealand would be, the lawyer registered a personal best of 69.674, beating out Malaysia’s Qabil Ambak for the final position.
Who: Amita Marie Nicolette Berthier, 20
Event: Fencing – Women’s Foil
In yet another historical achievement, Berthier is the first Singaporean fencer to qualify for the Olympic Games.
The two-time SEA Games gold medallist (in 2017 and 2019) earned the spot after a hard-fought victory over the host nation at the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. In an interview then, Berthier dedicated the win to her late father: “I made a promise five years ago when he passed that I would get to the Olympics, and I knew he was there with me, watching over me the whole day today.”
Who: Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman, 20
Event: Fencing – Women’s epee
Kiria is the second female fencer to qualify for the Olympics after Berthier, and the first female epee fencer to make it to the competition. The undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is also the reigning SEA Games champion in the same event. Fun fact: only two other fencers in Singapore’s history — James Wong and Ronald Tan — have made it to the Olympics, at the 1992 Barcelona Games. However, they didn’t have to qualify and made it by virtue of being the top fencers in Singapore.
Who: Tan Sze En, 20
Event: Gymnastics – Individual All-Around
Despite having to undergo surgery for a shoulder injury in 2018, Tan bounced back to give a remarkable performance at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, cementing her spot at the Games.
Tan, who’s studying at Stanford University, is only the second gymnast to qualify for the Games in Singapore’s history, the first being Lim Heem Wei in 2012.
Who: Joan Poh, 30
Event: Rowing – Women’s Single Sculls
Poh had been told by coaches before that she was too short to succeed in rowing, but the 1.66m athlete never gave up on her Olympic dream. Besides being Singapore’s second-ever representative for the sport at the Olympics, Poh is also a staff nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
“Thankfully, rowing is a late-age sport, so… I’m not thinking of winding down,” said Poh in an interview with The Straits Times. “I hope with two rowers at consecutive Olympics, the government can start looking at rowing and seeing whether the sport can really take off from here. I think we can… And I’m glad to play my part.”
Who: Ryan Lo, 24
Event: Sailing – Men’s Laser
Lo earned his berth at the Olympics through the Asian qualifiers in April, following in the footsteps of his sister, Lo Man Yi, who represented Singapore at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Sailing runs in the family, with Lo’s father and older brother also involved in the sport. Over the past two SEA Game campaigns, the Sports Excellence Scholarship holder has bagged a total of four gold medals.
Who: Kimberly Lim, 25, & Cecilia Low, 29
Event: Sailing – Women’s 49er FX
Lim and Low were one of the earliest to receive notification that they’d qualified for the Games back in December last year. The pair’s impressive teamwork had won them the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in the new 49erFX class, with a race to spare.
In an interview last year, both Lim and Low said they were not bummed by the postponement of the Games as it gave them more time to prepare “as we’re kind of a new team in the circuit”.
Who: Adele Tan, 22
Event: Shooting – Women’s 10m air rifle
Tan was the frontrunner to qualify for this year’s Olympics, after her outstanding showing at the H&N Cup 2020 Munich, where she not only won gold but also set a new national record.
The NUS student, who is studying psychology, also won two bronze medals at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.
Swimming (Open water)
Who: Chantal Liew, 22
Event: Swimming – Women’s Open Water
Liew made history when she saw herself through to the Olympics, after placing 29th out of 40 swimmers at the Fina Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifiers last month. She finished the 10km race in 2 hours 12 minutes and 20 seconds, and was the best Asian finisher after two Japanese swimmers. This meant that Liew was able to snag the sole continental quota spot available for Asia at the Games. Before news of her qualification, Liew had intended to retire after the Olympics this year.
Fun fact: Liew shares the same birthday as Singapore, on Aug 9.
Who: Clarence Chew, 25
Event(s): Table Tennis – Men’s Singles
Chew is the first Singapore-born paddler to qualify for an Olympic Games Table Tennis Men’s Singles event. He defeated compatriot and SEA Games champion Koen Pang in the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Doha in March, earning his spot at the Games.
Who: Lin Ye, 25 years
Event(s): Table Tennis – Women’s Singles, Women’s Team
Lin Ye was 19 years old when she defeated tennis stalwarts Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu (who are also representing Singapore at the Games) in the Women Doubles title.
In March this year, she partnered Zeng Jian to take home the women’s doubles silver at the Oman Open.
This article was first published in AsiaOne.