28 July 2008

President Hu meets Singapore sailors

QINGDAO, China: Singapore's Olympic sailing team welcomed an unexpected visitor during their recent training camp in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao dropped in to meet the sailors, who were in Qingdao earlier this month for a 10-day training camp ahead of the Beijing Games.

President Hu spent about 10 minutes chatting with the six-member team, including captain Koh Seng Leong.

"It was good to meet him. We were told he is one of the five most powerful persons in the world," said Koh, 24, who will do battle in the Laser Standard class in Qingdao from August 9 to 21.

"He asked if our preparations were okay and if we needed anything else. He was very accommodating."

President Hu was in Qingdao to see how hosts China's preparations for the Olympic sailing competition were progressing. He shared a light moment with Singapore's 470s coach Zhang Yongqiang, who is a native of Qingdao.

Said Koh: "When coach Zhang told him that he was from Qingdao, President Hu said, 'Oh, that's good. So there's no need to ask you how you find the place'."

Singapore's six-strong Olympic squad began a three-day camp at a secret location to help foster stronger team-spirit and camaraderie on Sunday.

Besides Koh, Lo Man Yi, 20, will compete in the Laser Radial category, while Terence Koh (20) and Xu Yuanzhen (23) and Toh Liying (23) and Deborah Ong will fly the Singapore flag in the men's 470 and women's 470 classes, respectively. They will leave for Beijing on July 31.

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