Unbeaten but happily under the radar 

Unbeaten but happily under the radar 
Singapore's Tao Li gestures after winning the women's 100m backstroke and Singapore's 50th gold medal at the 28th Sea Games at OCBC Aquatic Centre on 9 June 2015.

Over the past few days, all the swimming headlines have been about Joseph Schooling's record- breaking feats in the pool.

But, just like Schooling, Singapore swim queen Tao Li is having a flawless meet at the SEA Games, as she continues to exert her dominance in the sprint events.

Yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the 25-year-old picked up her third gold in as many events as she comfortably won the 100m backstroke. It was also Singapore's 50th gold at the meet.

Tao clocked 1min 2.67sec, just outside her Games record of 1:02.11. Indonesia's Anak Agung Istri Kania Ratih was second in 1:04.38, and the Philippines' Roxanne Ashley Yu rounded up the top three in 1:04.80.

On being under the radar so far at the meet, Tao said: "It's okay, I've been among the top few for the past 10 years, and it's time for the young swimmers to be in the limelight. I don't really care about the headlines, as long as I win the gold for Singapore and make Singapore proud. That's what I'm here for."

Her form even made Vietnam swim sensation Nguyen Thi Anh Vien drop the 100m backstroke to avoid a showdown with Tao.

Anh Vien was entered for three events yesterday, but chose instead to swim only in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke. She won both in Games record time, justifying her decision. In nine events, she has six golds.

The fact that Tao has won the 100m back at every SEA Games since 2005 probably played a part.

Said Anh Vien: "I had a bad day on Monday when I didn't win any golds, so today I chose the races which I can definitely win. Also, I wanted to beat Singapore in the 200m fly.

"But I still want to race Tao Li, and I will try to beat her."

The two go head to head in the 100m fly tomorrow. Said Tao: "I'm looking forward to racing her because I'm a racer. There was no one to really push me in the 100m back, so I've still got a lot in me.

"I'll probably get better in the next event."

It was another good day out for Singapore in the pool. The hosts won four of six golds on offer, and lead the medal table with 15 golds, nine silvers and four bronzes - surpassing their 11-gold, nine-silver, 10-bronze outing at the last Games.

Schooling continued his golden run, winning his fifth gold of the meet in the 100m fly as he clocked a Games record time of 52.13.

It was the fourth-fastest time in Asia this year and an Olympic "A" time, although it was behind his personal best of 51.69.

Said Schooling: "The 100m fly was slower than I expected. But I went out in 23.9sec in the first 50m, that's my fastest so far, so I've just got to get more rest.

"It was my fifth and sixth events today. In three days, that's a lot. Hopefully I can win both my events (50m fly and 200m individual medley) tomorrow."

The indefatigable Quah Zheng Wen picked up his third consecutive 400m individual medley title - and Singapore's 51st gold medal - as he clocked 4:23.50.

Singapore's last gold came in the men's 4x100m free relay. Schooling, Danny Yeo, Clement Lim and Quah out-swam the field to touch home in a Games and national record time of 3:19.59.

Malaysia were second in 3:25.55, while Indonesia were third in 3:25.92.

Said Quah: "Overall we had a good night of swimming, and I think it's amazing that we're really making waves and history for Singapore."

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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