By Raj Kumar for Team Singapore Website
It was a day that the Britons had hoped to celebrate their 1st gold medal of the London Games, especially when they paraded their ‘Dream Team’ in Men’s road-cycling within their ranks. It was also supposed to be the start of Michael Phelps’ assault on seven gold medals in his 4th Olympiad. Unfortunately, both camps suffered unexpected defeats and went home empty-handed on the 1st day of competition. And the same could almost probably be said of Singapore’s very own, Tao Li.
The 22 year old is competing in her 2nd Olympiad and she was expected to do well in the 100m Butterfly. Back in Beijing in 2008, the Singapore Sports School student helped set a new Asian record and finished in the top 5 of this event. And obviously, expectations of a medal from her were pretty strong for the London Games. But it’s been no secret that she’s been struggling to regain the form from four years ago, when she set 57.54 seconds at the ‘Watercube’ aka Aquatics Centre. Therefore, it was a sweet surprise, when she managed to time 58.35 seconds in the qualifying heats this morning.
“It was an all out strategy and holding back on nothing. My coach (Ian Turner) in the last 25 metres, told me that I must push all the way, due to my short height. And I did”, claimed Tao Li. And as for the semi-final, she did appear to look confident at the start, as she took to the platform. But once the race started and she dived into the pool, the multiple winning SEA Games Gold medallist seemed to struggle for pace. And when she reached the half way mark, Singapore’s reigning queen was already trailing in last place. After that, it was pretty much a game of playing ‘catch-up’ with the rest of the field. Unfortunately for her thou, she settled for last position and a timing of 58.18 seconds.
And much to our surprise, she said “ I think my timing is okay. It’s not that bad. It’s just a case of the others being too fast for me. They swam like mid-57 seconds. But this is a competition. If your time is bad but your position is good, that means it’s still good”.
Before speaking to the media in the Mixed Zone at the London Aquatics Centre, the Butterfly specialist knew that she was already out of the Grand final by just half a second. But she portrayed the image of a confident athlete and said that she would certainly try to do the nation proud in her next event, the 100m backstroke. And with two sub 59-second timings in one day, it does prove that Tao Li’s improved, especially when her record set in 2008, was posted in the era of the super aerodynamic wet suits (which have now been banned).