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SINGAPORE — For the first time in its Olympic history, Singapore will head to a Summer Games with a defending champion, after swimmer Joseph Schooling won the country's first-ever gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro edition.
Yet, neither Dr Benedict Tan, chef de mission of the Team Singapore contingent going for the upcoming Tokyo Games, nor Toh Boon Yi, chief of the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), are insisting that the 25-year-old swimmer must retain his gold or even return with at least a medal.
"Joseph already made history five years ago in Rio, no one can take away the fact that he is Singapore's first Olympic gold medallist," Toh said during an online media conference on Tuesday (6 July), as the Singapore athletes prepare to head for Tokyo for the 23 July to 8 August Games.
"Five years is a very long time, and circumstances are very different now for Joseph. We've heard about top swimmers who are posting faster timings than him right now. Whether they can put up similar timings at the Olympics, we'll have to see.
"But we can't control that. So we're just asking Joseph to go to Tokyo and give the swim of his life. As long as he gives his all, we are happy for him."
23 Singapore athletes in unprecedented 12 different sports
Singapore is sending 23 athletes to Tokyo to compete in an unprecedented 12 different sports, eclipsing the nine sports it competed in at the 2012 London Games, and five more than the seven at the Rio Games.
Three sports – diving, equestrian and marathon swimming – will be competed by Singapore athletes for the first time. Divers Jonathan Chan and Frieda Lim, equestrienne Caroline Chew and marathon swimmer Chantal Liew will be making history in their respective sports with their Tokyo appearances.
Even so, Toh and Dr Tan declined to set a medal target for the Games-bound athletes to attain, insisting that success should be judged via the overall picture of Singapore's ability to produce Olympians.
"The fact that we were able to send athletes to 12 different sports, a big jump from seven in 2016, means that the system which we had put in place to produce top-class athletes in a wide range of sports is working well," Dr Tan said during the media conference.
"Winning medals is only one facet in the overall success of Singapore sports. Of course, we would be overjoyed if any one of our athletes wins an Olympic medal, but we feel that having athletes from 12 sports reaching the Olympic qualifying standard amid the COVID-19 pandemic is already an indication of success.
"As the Games draws near, I hope Singaporeans can lend their full support to cheer our athletes and wish them success at the Games.”
Measures in place to protect athletes from COVID-19
Amid the ongoing pandemic, SNOC said that the contingent members have received their vaccinations before the start of the Games.
The Singapore-based athletes have been training within a “bubble” to minimise disruptions to their performance plans. Athletes will arrive in Tokyo five days before their competition commences, and depart within 48 hours after their competition ends.
While in Tokyo, they will function in a “bubble within a bubble” to minimise their exposure to risks, and will undergo COVID-19 tests daily. A safety and hygiene protocol is in place to ensure that they are in tip-top shape and health at all times.
For the first time, Singapore will have two flag bearers at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introducing one male and one female flag bearer for each delegation in its first gender-balanced Games.
Paddler Yu Mengyu and shuttler Loh Kean Yew will be leading Team Singapore's 23-strong contingent at the opening ceremony on 23 July. Yu will be making her second Olympic appearance, while Loh will be making his debut in Tokyo.
The public can support Team Singapore athletes via updates from the SNOC (@sgolympics) and Team Singapore (@teamsingapore) social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Live coverage of the Games will available on Singtel TV and CAST, as well as Mediacorp’s meWATCH.
Stay in the know on-the-go: Join Yahoo Singapore's Telegram channel at http://t.me/YahooSingapore
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