Tao Li could miss KL SEA Games

Tao Li could miss KL SEA Games
Tao Li, with 29 gold medals from six South-east Asia Games, trails Joscelin Yeo’s record haul of 40 golds from the biennial Games.
PHOTO: The New Paper

She has been a fixture in the national swimming team for the past six South-east Asia (SEA) Games, and owns an incredibly consistent record at striking gold for Singapore.

Since the Manila SEA Games in 2005, Tao Li has stood on top of the podium at least four times in each edition of the biennial Games.

And it's clear she is fond of one particular colour, with an outstanding collection of 29 gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

Tao Li is 11 gold medals behind Joscelin Yeo's haul of 40, but her quest to surpass the record holder could be put on hold.

Tao Li revealed that she could miss out on this year's competition in Kuala Lumpur in August because of her coaching commitments.

"It should be a long shot (qualifying and competing at the KL SEA Games) as I'm still coaching at the Swimfast Aquatic Club and preparing our athletes for the Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships in March," the 27-year-old told The New Paper.

"The meet also serves as a SEA Games qualifier, but I will not be participating.

"So the earliest I can resume training is at the end of March, which might be too late unless there is another qualifier held around June."

It is understood that national sports associations are expected to submit their first SEA Games nominations to the Singapore National Olympic Council by the end of next month.

The Singapore Swimming Association typically nominates the two fastest athletes for each event who at least meet the bronze-medal timings from the previous Games, failing which they could hold another qualifying meet at a later date.

This could be an opening for Tao Li, who remains the Republic's top-performing female swimmer at the Asian Games.

Medalling at all three editions she has participated in since Doha 2006, she has two golds, two silvers and two bronzes, all achieved in the 50m and 100m butterfly events.

She is also the first Singaporean swimmer to reach an Olympic "A" final, finishing fifth in the 100m butterfly event at Beijing 2008.

While swimming will always be a big part of her life, Tao Li has managed to fulfil other ambitions besides winning gold medals.

Since her last major outing at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil, she has completed a degree in business management and started her own Taoli Swimming Club, which is based at the Temasek Club at Rifle Range Road.

Yet, there remains a competitive streak in her that refuses to be extinguished.

While she readily admitted that it would be "very difficult to get back to Olympic level", Tao Li feels she can still do a good job at the South-east Asian and Asian level.

In 2015, she won five gold medals as Singaporean swimmers romped to 23 golds in their best SEA Games performance.

"This year's SEA Games may be a little rushed, but it's still possible to swim at some of the World Cup stops," she said.

"I don't think people have seen the last of me and I definitely have next year's Asian Games (in Indonesia) in my sights."

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on February 17, 2017.
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