Contributed by Davin Teo
Biathletes entering the swim leg in the 2010 Singapore Biathlon. An open water swim trial is now required for those entering the event for the first time. (Photo 1 © Vanessa Lim/Red Sports archive)
New participants of the Singapore Biathlon who have not completed an open water swim event of equivalent distance over the last two years, will have to clear an open water swim trial before they can compete at the event on 12 February.
This is the latest safety measure introduced by event organisers, SAFRA and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), to ensure that participants are familiar with the challenges of competing in an open water swim event and that they are sufficiently fit to complete the required distance before race day.
Since the inaugural event held in 2001, swim trials conducted in swimming pools have been a mandatory criteria for participation among novices. This standard measure had ensured a zero casualty rate from drowning for the event over the last 10 years. However, the organisers have received public feedback that swim trials held in enclosed pools do not sufficiently prepare participants for open water conditions have nudged organisers to lift the bar higher.
Colonel Tan Tai Tiong, Chairman of the Organising Committee for Singapore Biathlon 2011, commented: “We have received feedback and it is common that new participants experienced a sense of panic when they compete in the open sea for the first time. They will encounter waves and other swimmers in close contact who will be trying to get ahead. The open water swim trials will serve to make them more aware of such differences compared to swimming in a pool. Participants will then realise that they require much more effort to cover the same distance.”
Mr Kelson Wong, 31, who competed in his first open water swim at the Singapore Biathlon 2010 was one of those participants that found the experience unnerving. He commented: “I was actually quite confident of my swimming abilities after clearing the swim trials in the pool. However, during the race, I was caught by surprise by the unpredictable waves and the amount of kicking and pulling at the start of the swim. It was a lot tougher to navigate in the open water through the crowd.”
Approximately 40 percent of registrants each year are required to participate in the swim trials. The open water swim trials for Singapore Biathlon 2011 will be held on the Saturdays of 8 and 22 January at the SAF Yacht Club (Sembawang) where the tidal conditions are more conducive for novices. Participants will also be flagged off in three separate waves, limited to 100 participants per wave, to simulate the mass start. They will be required to complete the actual swim distance according to their race category to qualify for the actual race.
This year, organisers of the Singapore Biathlon have once again chosen to partner Tribob to offer pre-race clinics for open water swimming to provide more opportunities for participants to train for the swim leg.
Colonel Tan added: “These measures will better prepare participants for the race and further reduce any potential risks. We want them to have a positive race experience and do well.”
To encourage more youths to take up the sport, those between the ages of 15 to 20 will have the option of participating in a shorter sprint distance event comprising a 750m swim and 5km run. Youths who are more experienced can still take on the full distance in the Open Category.
Registration for the Singapore Biathlon 2011 closes on 15 January. The last edition of the event held in March 2010 attracted a record 2,310 participants. For more information, log on to the event website at www.safra.sg/singaporebiathlon.