By Jeanette Wang
THE inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) may still be two years away, but host Singapore has received a boost to its medal hopes.
Yesterday, it learnt that the International Sailing Federation (Isaf) chose the Byte CII for the one-person dinghy event and the Bic Techno 293 for windsurfing for boys and girls.
Singapore has a strong track record in the Byte CII, having won three of possible four titles in the last two Byte CII World Championships.
As for the Bic Techno 293, it has been the chosen equipment for Singapore’s windsurfing youth development programme since 2006.
Naturally, SingaporeSailing chief executive officer Andrew Sanders is pleased with the selection of the two classes.
Valerie Chia, 17, is the reigning women’s Byte CII world champion with her triumph in Pattaya last year. In 2006, Nicholas de Cruz, 18, and Elizabeth Yin, 17, won the Open and women’s Byte CII crowns respectively, following up on 19-year-old Calvin Lim’s win in 2004.
But the four are no longer eligible for the YOG sailing events, which are open to sailors from 15-16 year-olds. So new blood is needed – targeting those currently 14 and under. They are likely to be found in the Optimist class, which provides good tactical training that can be used in all classes, including windsurfing.
It does not hurt that Singapore has a strong record in the Optimist – including winning last year’s World Championships team and girls’ events.
Sanders said a series of sessions will be held for sailors and their parents to help guide the sailors to the right classes of boats for the YOG. There are also plans to have a special training programme for the Youth Olympics in the coming months.
‘Countries around the world aspiring to the YOG will follow suit to adopt the new classes,’ said Sanders. ‘We will definitely see a substantial increase in the standards in the next 12 months. The standard at the YOG will be very high.’
But SingaporeSailing president Low Teo Ping, who is also the Isaf vice-president, is sticking to his earlier target of at least two to three sailing gold medals.
Added Sanders: ‘We are confident with our medal target as these are classes which we are very familiar with. The YOG sailing qualifiers will consist of the 2010 Byte CII and Bic Techno 293 World Championships, plus six continental qualifiers for each class. The 2010 Games from Aug 14-26 will see 3,200 athletes aged between 14 and 18 competing in 26 sports.