Sailing: Singapore's Tokyo Olympic hopefuls fuelled by fruitful stint in Europe

SINGAPORE – Despite less-than-ideal training stints in Europe due to the pandemic, there was still plenty of positives to take home for national sailors Kimberly Lim, Cecilia Low and Ryan Lo.

The 49erFX pair of Lim and Low, who have earned Singapore a spot at the Tokyo Games, said one of the biggest lessons has been to be adaptable. They spent three months in Portugal from September and Lim said: “The last times we were in Europe, we always spent six months there so we had to have proper rest blocks in between.

“But because we were away from Portugal for so long this time, when we went for that three months, we made it pretty intense so it was a lot of sailing, a lot of boat work and gym work.”

They trained five times a week and competed in a few events including two coaches’ regattas, which they finished first and third in.

Lim, 24, added: “It was really good back racing because that’s why we do our sport – to race and compete. It was really nice, especially having strong teams to compete against in Cascais. It was exciting and a big morale booster for us with each event we competed in.”

It was also a fruitful few months for Lo, who headed to Split, Croatia in August. He competed in the 2020 Laser Senior European Championships and Open European Trophy in Gdansk, Poland, before heading to Malta for a training camp.

In October’s 2020 Laser Senior European Championships and Open European Trophy – his first major event since the Laser Standard World Championships in January – he finished 21st.

The field of 126 included event winner Elliot Hanson, Britain’s representative for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and Croatia’s Olympic silver medallist Tonci Stipanovic.

Lo, 23, said: “I was definitely very eager to see how it was like compared to other sailors, how (the work we did during) quarantine had translated into progress.

“That event showed me, my coach, the Singapore Sport Institute and the Singapore Sailing Federation that we were on the right path, that the work we’d done in quarantine, the training in Europe had worked.”

Unlike previous overseas tours, which would see the sailors changing location every few weeks, there was a lot less travelling this time owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

They found themselves facing Europe’s second wave as the number of Covid-19 cases began to skyrocket in October and made sure they wore masks and kept their social activities to a minimum.

Low, 29, said: “We do miss the freedom because it can feel a bit boring like when we had to be in circuit breaker. But other than that, we are always together, so it’s not too bad.”

“Throughout the year, we tried to look at the positives of the situation that we’d been put in instead of being sulky about it. All my plans are ruined but what we tried to do think of it as opportunities to improve ourselves in areas that we couldn’t do previously.”

With seven months till the July 23-Aug 8 Games, the trio will be on the move again. Lo is heading to Abu Dhabi for the Feb 14-21 Asian Sailing Federation (Asaf) Asian Championships 2021 – the last Olympic qualifier for his event – and hopes to secure his spot in Japan.

Ryan Lo competing in the 2020 Laser Senior European Championships in Gdansk, Poland, where he finished 21st out of 126 sailors. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THOM TOUW

Lim and Low are leaving in a few weeks, first to Lanzarote, a Spanish island, for a training camp before they return to Portugal. They then head to Palma, Spain to compete and possibly France.

The Republic’s sailors have qualified for every edition of the Summer Games since 1984, with its biggest contingent of 10 sailors in seven events at Rio 2016.

Lim: “We’ve spent quite a lot of years on this campaign and working towards this goal so the most important thing is to be able to be there and perform.

“It’s important that we remember to take our mini breathers, like what happened last year helped us a lot, during the seven months towards the Games and be ready for them.”

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