National juniors Stefan Tseng and Calvin Kang, Singapore’s only two qualifiers for next month’s 12th IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, have been packed off for a month-long training stint in Frankfurt Germany, as part of their final preparations for the competition.
The teenage duo left with their coaches, Valeri Obidko and Alfred Sim respectively, last night, after only being informed of the trip three days before.
It is believed that the Singapore Athletics Association has arranged for them to train with some German athletics clubs although details are still very sketchy at best.
The two athletes are also slated to take part in two competitions during their stint – the Bahaus Junioren Gala 2008 meet, an U-20 competition, in Mannheim, this weekend, and another meet in Berlin from 1-2 July.
They will then compete at the World Juniors (8-13 July) before returning to Singapore on 16 July.
It is believed that the two teenagers were sent to Frankfurt so that they can acclimatise to the weather in time for the World Juniors.
Last year, triple jumper Stefan had just than a week to acclimatise to the conditions when he went to compete in the World Youth Championships in the Czech Republic city of Ostrava. He leapt a new national record distance of 15.69m in the qualifiers to reach the final. However, he could only manage 15.54m in the final and narrowly lost the bronze on countback.
It looks like the SAA is now making sure that their two most promising junior athletes will have ample time to get used to European conditions and to build on their excellent Asian Junior Championships performances before the World Junior Championships.
Stefan broke his national record for the sixth time at the 13th Asian Junior Athletics meet in Jakarta, clearing 15.78m to finish fourth. Similarly, sprinter Calvin clocked a new personal best of 10.53sec to finish fourth in the 100m and set a new national junior record, a feat that also earned him a wildcard entry to the Beijing Olympics in August.
However, the competitive standards at the World Juniors are clearly higher than the Asian Juniors.
Based on last year’s World Juniors results, Stefan would have finished 9th with his 15.78m leap (Bulgaria’s Zhirko Petkov was ninth with 15.76m while France’s Benjamin Compaore won in 16.61m). If Stefan can push beyond 16m, he could be in the mix for a medal or a top-five finish.
Likewise, based on last year’s results, Calvin’s 10.53secs would have barely scraped him into the 100m final (Nigeria’s Obinna Metu eventually finished eighth in 10.54sec while Great Britain’s Harri Aikines-Ayeetey won the blue riband event in 10.37sec).
Whether the two lads are mentally strong enough to overcome the stresses of being away from home for so long remains to be seen.
However, there is no denying that Germany has always been a happy development ground for Singapore athletes in the past.
James Wong, who was based in Germany throughout the 1990s, set his national discus (59.87m) and hammer (58.20m) records in 1999 while walker K. Jayamani also achieved her still unsurpassed 1,500m (4min 31.2 sec) and 3,000m (9min 56.6sec) national records there in 1982.
High jumper Wong Yew Tong’s stint in Germany in 1997 also paved the way for him to set a national record of 2.22m at the 1995 SEA Games in Chiangmai, Thailand.
Singapore Sports Fan would like to wish Stefan and Calvin the very best and is keeping his fingers crossed that they will reach new heights at the World Juniors.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan