Swimming World Cup: Tao Li's silver lining

Tao Li (centre) basking in the delight of her silver-medal showing in the Fina World Cup with her supporters at the Singapore Sports School.

Disappointed, annoyed, and having had to endure a long tongue-lashing from her mother the night before, Tao Li bounced back from a shocking show on the first day of the Fina Swimming World Cup to clinch a silver.

The 23-year-old Singaporean timed 25.57 seconds in the women's 50m butterfly on Wednesday, just off her personal best of 25.43 clocked in August.

Sweden's Sarah Sjoestroem won in 25.34, and Australia's Emma McKeon took the bronze with 25.82 in the short-course meet which is part of an eight-legged international circuit.

Said Tao, who failed to make Tuesday's 100m butterfly final after a poor swim in the heats: "Today, I was more prepared mentally.

"On Wednesday, I was talking to my team-mates the whole day. Today, I didn't talk to my team-mates at all, and that helped me conserve energy.

"It was a lesson learnt for me. After Wednesday, my mum scolded me the whole night."

Determined to redeem herself, Tao completed in Wednesday's race with a strategy never attempted before in her career - to finish the swim without taking a single breath.

She said: "I feel stronger and it's better for me. The strokes are not that smooth if I take breaths."

To make up for her lack of height and reach, the 1.6-metre-tall Tao also unleashed the best weapon in her arsenal - the underwater swim - against a field of competitors (such as the 1.86m Sjoestroem) who towered over her.

In Wednesday's race, the two-time Asian gold medallist surfaced last, and ahead, of the field after the dive.

Her position was boosted again after the 25m turn, and she managed to hang on to finish second even as her rivals closed in towards the end.

Said Tao's coach Ian Turner: "That was the plan. To stay underwater as long as possible, and also not to breathe.

"It was a professional swim and, to be honest, it was a result of Wednesday's disappointment. Today, she put into practice what I told her to do."

Tao's achievement marks the fourth time she has won the silver in the Singapore leg of the international circuit in the past four years.

Turner, who is also the national head coach, also credited his other SEA Games-bound swimmers for good performances last night.

Quah Zheng Wen, 17, set two national records in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke.

He timed 1min 46.08sec in the 200m free in the morning's heats to rewrite Danny Yeo's 2012 mark of 1:47.64, and proceeded to erase Zach Ong's 2009 backstroke record of 1:58.73 in the evening's final.

Teo Zhen Ren, 19, also set a mark of his own when he clocked 15:19.30 in the 1,500m to better Pang Sheng Jun's time of 15:21.76 clocked in September.

Said Teo, the defending SEA Games 1,500m champion, ahead of next month's Myanmar Games: "This is my preparation race before the SEA Games and I'm really happy with my swim.

"It definitely gave me a lot of confidence."

Not to be outdone by his older team-mates, Singapore sprint sensation Darren Lim, 15, also set a national record of his own.

Though he did not qualify for the evening's final, he set a new mark of 22.26 in the morning's 50m free heats.

Said Darren, who was competing in his first short-course meet: "I'm happy. It's my first time competing and now I know where I stand in short-course events."

Agreed Turner: "The performances augur well for Singapore ahead of the SEA Games."

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