Wednesday 21 May 2014

OCBC Aquatic Centre completes construction

Finally, a top-tier swimming arena to call home
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 20 May 2014

SINGAPORE may be the kingpin of South-east Asia when it comes to swimming, but it has lagged behind many of its regional neighbours when it comes to top-tier competitive swimming arenas.

Not anymore, as the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the first facility of the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub to reach completion, will put the Republic - which has dominated swimming in South- east Asia for over a decade - on a par with regional countries with similar complexes.

Said Singapore Swimming Association president Jeffrey Leow yesterday, during an event that marked the completion of the aquatic centre: "Some of us have been waiting for a facility like this for 50 years. I'm happy to see that it's finally come to fruition.

"It's a bit embarrassing when we go to places like Laos, Myanmar and Palembang (in Indonesia) and see their top swimming facilities. Now, ours is better than theirs."

Those three countries constructed new swimming arenas when they hosted the past three SEA Games, and the OCBC Aquatic Centre will similarly feature in the biennial Games that Singapore hosts next year. The arena features a 50m competition pool, a 50m training pool and a 5m-deep diving pool. The 3,000-seat venue can also be expanded to take up to 6,000 spectators.

Past and present swimmers gave the centre a firm "thumbs-up" as they got a taste of the state-of-the-art facilities yesterday.

Former swim queen Joscelin Yeo, who participated in a friendly relay, likened it to the electrifying feeling of competing in the Asian Games or even the Olympics. Said the 35-year-old: "You sense a lot of energy in this place. I think it's going to be an exciting place to race in. You step in and you get the sense of excitement. I love it."

Freestyle specialist Danny Yeo, who holds the national 100m and 400m records, added: "Sometimes when we compete overseas, we get taken aback by how overwhelming some venues can be.

"Now we have something like that too, which we will have access to on a regular basis."

David Lim, who competed at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and now coaches some of Singapore's brightest swimmers, said athletes now have the advantage of being backed regularly by a strong home crowd in competitions.

He said: "I only experienced it once in my swimming career (at the 1993 SEA Games), and no national swimmer has had that privilege since. It's like getting an extra boost of adrenaline during a race. It'll be fantastic."

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