News

Swim Guru gets his 'dream' role

The Straits Times by WANG MENG MENG

Since its inception in 2004, the Singapore Sports School (SSP) has groomed more than 80 national swimmers and that conveyor belt will now be boosted further by the addition of renowned breaststroke coach Jozsef Nagy.

An inductee in the International Swimming Hall of Fame and mentor of Joseph Schooling's former coach Sergio Lopez, Nagy has been tasked to build on the school's pipeline that has produced the likes of local swimmers Tao Li, Amanda Lim and Clement Lim.

The 66-year-old Hungarian will start full-time at SSP in September. His appointment, along with former national swimmer Mylene Ong, who returns to her alma mater as a coach, was announced yesterday by SSP principal Tan Teck Hock.

Nagy first visited Singapore in 2008 when he was the coach of the Canadian swim team bound for the Olympics. He had based his swimmers at SSP ahead of the Beijing Summer Games.

He recalled: "Within the first couple of days I thought to myself that I would like to work here. When I saw this complex, I felt it was world-class. It had a school, dorm, pool... what more could you want for the students? This is a dream for coaches everywhere. I hope to share and use my experience here."

Tan added: "This is our 15th year and we have a strong pipeline of national representatives but we must continue to up our game. Nagy is highly esteemed and has groomed many world-class swimmers."

IMMEDIATELY IMPRESSED

Within the first couple of days I thought to myself that I would like to work here.

'' JOZSEF NAGY, referring to his first visit to the Singapore Sports School in 2008, while coaching the Canadian swim team.

Nagy received acclaim for inventing the "wave technique" for the breaststroke. Previously, swimmers glided along the surface with their bodies low in the water but Nagy extracted faster times by instructing swimmers to lift their torsos higher and lunge forward.

Regarded as a breaststroke guru, he coached his swimmers to a total of nine world records. His proteges included the United States' 1992 Olympic 200m breaststroke champion Mike Barrowman and Lopez, who won the bronze (200m breast) at the 1988 Seoul Games.

In addition to Nagy's experience, the SSP also hopes that Ong, a graduate from its pioneer batch who competed at the 2012 London Olympics and has five SEA Games golds to her name, will be able to identify with her young charges.

The 26-year-old said: "I came across swimmers who had lost motivation. It can be helpful when a former swimmer shares her experience. I experienced burnout myself, there were days when I don't want to go to a session but the end goal kept me focused. I will ask them questions and slowly, they will get back on track."

The SSP also announced a new partnership with local club Swimfast Aquatic Group. Called the Learn-to-Train Programme, it will be launched in September to widen the talent identification process by providing affordable training sessions. Swimfast is founded by former Olympian David Lim.

Tan declined to reveal the exact pricing of the sessions but said it is "not prohibitive and not at commercial rates". He hopes the scheme can "enlarge our catchment and bring the sport to lower-income families".

He noted: "We want to reach out to people and identify our next champion."