Expect fewer S’pore athletes at London 2012: chef de mission

Lin Wenjian
Lim Heem Wei is one of just 10 athletes who have qualified for the Games (AP Images)
Lim Heem Wei is one of just 10 athletes who have qualified for the Games (AP Images)

With exactly 100 days before the Olympic flame is lit in London, Team Singapore Chef de Mission Jessie Phua expects the Republic to have a smaller pool of athletes in the 27 July-12 August Games, compared to the Beijing edition four years ago.

"We will be hard-pressed to match the size of the last contingent," Phua told Yahoo! Singapore. "Qualifying for this year's Olympics in London is tougher as the slots are reduced. For example in swimming, those who met the 'B' time will probably need to be as good as those who met the 'A' time in order to go." she explained.

Twenty-five athletes across six sports represented the country in Beijing in 2008, but the number this time around could be lower due to changes in qualification criteria.

Under revised rules, swimmers who meet the 'B' qualifying mark will have to depend on invitations in order to compete in the London Games. This explains why Florida-based Joseph Schooling - the only one to have met the 'A' time - remains the sole Singapore swimmer guaranteed of making the starting blocks in London's Aquatics Centre.

Swim queen Tao Li - who is aiming to better her fifth-placed performance in Beijing 2008 - is almost assured of a ticket to London, after clocking one of the world's top 'B' times (58.78) in the 100m fly. The 'A' time for this event is 58.70

But even with Tao on the books, the number of Team Singapore athletes who have booked their place in London at this point is just nine - less than half of the 2008's contingent.

Feng Tianwei (L) and co will be on the plane to London (Yahoo! file photo)
Feng Tianwei (L) and co will be on the plane to London (Yahoo! file photo)

So far, besides Schooling, only Lim Heem Wei (gymnastics), Wang Yuegu, Feng Tianwei, Li Jiawei, Gao Ning, Yang Zi, and Zhan Jian (table tennis) will be strutting their stuff on sports' grandest stage in July.

The badminton's women's doubles team of Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei is almost assured of their spot, pending the close of the qualification window on 29 April.

Singapore Badminton Association chief executive Bobby Lee is hoping the team can reach the quarter-finals in London, but admits much will depend on the draw. "They are not seeded, so if they are drawn against the world's number team in the first round, then it will be hard on them," Lee said.

One athlete who will be going to the Games with little pressure on her is debut Olympian and pocket dynamo Lim.

The 23-year-old gymnast told Yahoo! Singapore: "I would like to achieve a personal best by successfully executing my new routines and skills and minimise any point deductions. Another goal will be to learn as much as I possibly can from my Olympic journey, so I can share the stories and pass them on to future generations."

The Singapore National Olympic Council will unveil the final list of athletes who will don the nation's colours in London on 15 June, but regardless of who makes it in the end, Phua has only one message for them: "Fly the Singapore flag high and give 110 per cent heart and soul effort".