SINGAPORE - Having made their mark in South-east Asia by topping the medal table at the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games, Singapore’s artistic swimming team is aiming to shine on an even bigger stage next year.
Artistic swimming duet Debbie Soh and Miya Yong have set their sights on becoming the first Singaporeans in the discipline to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, while the team is aiming to compete at the 2022 Asian Games. And they will be counting on newly appointed head coach Anastasia Goutseva to help them achieve their goals.
The 45-year-old Belarusian was announced as the new artistic swimming head coach by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) yesterday. She replaces Venezuelan Geraldine Narvaez, whose two-year deal ended last month.
The ex-artistic swimmer shares a connection with the Singapore team, as she had previously worked with its former consultant coach, the late Julie Sauve who died in April, when the duo were coaching the Canadian national team.
Soh, who has won five SEA Games gold medals, noted Sauve had previously “spoken highly” of Goutseva.
“Before Julie left us, she spoke of a coach who had been her assistant for six years under the Canadian Olympic team.” said the 22-year-old. “We didn’t know who it was yet at that time, but I do know that Anastasia was spoken highly of by Julie.
“With how Julie touched our lives, we trust in the process and will work hard to achieve our Olympic dreams to honour Julie’s legacy and her belief that we have the ability to be the first Singaporean artistic swimmers to make it (to the Olympics).”
A former junior athlete, Goutseva represented the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1991. She later competed for Belarus at the Fina World Championships and European Championships from 1991 to 1998.
As a coach, she worked with the Canadians from 2010 to 2016, leading the team and the duet of Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon and Elise Marcotte to fourth-place finishes at the 2012 London Olympics.
Prior to that stint, she had also coached the Greek national team from 2005 to 2009.
With artistic swimming omitted from the SEA Games schedule in the Philippines last year, Goutseva’s first task will be to help the team retain its top spot in the region if the discipline makes a return to the Hanoi SEA Games next year.
Ariel Sng, who competes in the team event, said: “We are looking forward to working with Anastasia. With her wealth of experience in the sport, we hope that together, Singapore artistic swimming will continue to reach new heights and retain its position as the top artistic swimming country in the region.”
SSA vice-president of artistic swimming Steve Chew said yesterday: “Anastasia, with her wealth of experience coaching Olympic teams and a proven track record at international competitions, will build on this and take Singapore artistic swimming to even greater heights.”