Tao Li, Schooling shine

Moments before the medal-presentation ceremony on Saturday, Tao Li was kept on her feet - for a full 15 minutes - worrying if her gold in the women's 100m backstoke would be invalidated.

Vietnam, whose swimmer came in second in the race, had lodged a protest against the Singaporean, using a video shot on an iPad as evidence to show that she had surfaced after the 15m mark. Swimmers are only allowed to stay underwater for a maximum distance of 15m after the dive.

Thankfully for Tao, the protest was over-ruled and she became the first Singapore athlete to win two golds in a day at these Games. Her other one came in the 100m butterfly earlier in the evening.

Said the swimmer, who is making her fifth appearance at the biennial meet: "I didn't know if I would be disqualified.

"But I'm quite an experienced swimmer and I've been to the World Championships and Olympics. I took 17 kicks before I surfaced, like I always do, so it should have been okay."

Tao, 22, clocked 1min 2.47sec for the win with Vietnam's golden girl Nguyen Thi Anh Vien only 0.30sec behind.

Third was Thailand's Natthanan Junkrajang in 1:04.03.

The protest aside, the relieved Singaporean, who still has the 200m fly and the 4x100m medley relay to swim for, feels that the toughest part of her SEA Games campaign is over.

She explained: "I feel great because I wanted the two medals today. It's the hardest part not because of the events, but that both swims were too close together."

The 100m fly came only one event after the 100m back and that gap of only about 20 minutes showed. She was slower than her season's best of 59.07 with 59.89sec, but it was still good enough for the victory.

Her compatriot Quah Ting Wen was second in 1:00.34 and third was the Philippines' Jasmine Alkhadi in 1:01.76.

Team-mate Joseph Schooling's historic quest to win six gold medals at these Games remained on track.

The 18-year-old Singaporean first won the men's 100m fly comfortably in 52.67 to better the meet record of 53.07. Indonesia's Triady Sidiq was second in 53.14 and Glenn Sutanto third in 53.93.

Then, Schooling teamed up with Danny Yeo, Darren Lim and Clement Lim to retain the 4x100m freestyle title. It is the seventh straight time Singapore have won that gold.

The quartet demolished the field - clocking 3:21.74 to rewrite the old mark of 3:23.22 - with second-placed Malaysia coming in more than three body-lengths behind.

Said Joseph, who anchored the team to victory by clocking the fastest leg with 49.72: "I was just trying to keep the lead. These guys already did all the work."

The United States-based swimmer has to win two more events in the 200m fly and the 4x100m medley relay before he completes his six-gold target.

Singapore ended the day with a total of four golds and two silvers to regain their standing as the leading ASEAN nation in the pool.

The final silver came in the 100m backstroke, through Quah's younger brother Zheng Wen, who clocked 56.11. The gold went to defending champion Siman Sudartawa of Indonesia, who timed 55.80.

With two more days of pool action to go, the Republic's swimmers boast a total of eight golds, four silvers and five bronzes.

Second-placed Thailand have a 4-3-5 tally.

ugenec@sph.com.sg


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