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13 Olympic First-Timers

They form bulk of SNOC’s list of 18 representatives from eight sports

Straits Times Jun 16, 2012

By TERRENCE VOON and ALVIN CHIA — PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, ST AND TNP FILE

Lim Heem Wei

Gymnastics: Lim Heem Wei (women’s artistic, individual all-around)

DIPNA Lim-Prasad was taking an afternoon nap yesterday when The Straits Times rang and told her that she was getting on the plane to the London Olympics.

The national women’s 100m hurdles record holder whooped in delight. After all, she will become the first Singapore woman to feature in an Olympic track event since Chee Swee Lee in 1976

Lim-Prasad said: ‘I’m overwhelmed. It’s a dream come true, it sounds cliched, but it’s true.’

Dreams came true for athletes across the country yesterday, when the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) endorsed 18 athletes to represent the Republic at next month’s Games.

Thirteen of them – including Lim-Prasad and her track colleague Gary Yeo – are first-timers on the Olympic stage. Swimmer Joseph Schooling, 16, is the youngest. Male paddler Zhan Jian is the oldest at 31.

Inexperience may count against them, but Singapore’s chef de mission Jessie Phua said yesterday there will be minimal pressure on the newcomers. She said: ‘As long as they put in their best, I’ll be proud of them.’

This year’s contingent is smaller than the class of 2008, which had 25 athletes across five sports.

Eight sports will feature Singaporeans this time, and the wider spread, which includes gymnastics and canoeing for the first time, is worth celebrating.

The window is still open for more athletes to join the contingent. RS:X sailor Amanda Ng is the first reserve on the Olympic back-up list in her class and swimmer Tao Li is likely to go as one of the top qualifiers with ‘B’ times.

Neither SNOC secretary general Chris Chan nor Phua were willing to discuss medal targets, though the women’s table tennis team – who won a silver in 2008 – are the likeliest to win one.

But Chan did say there was a chance of snagging a women’s singles medal, after the International Table Tennis Federation decided to limit each country to two players. This means that superpowers China can only occupy a maximum of two spaces on the Olympic podium for the sport.

‘Who knows, maybe Feng Tianwei can get there on the podium,’ he said.

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