LOCAL swimmer Tao Li is not expecting to make much of an impact this weekend at the Fina World Cup.
After all, she has been unable to train regularly, having spent much of the year focusing on her studies and preparing to sit for the pre-university International English Language Testing System last August.
'I will try my best but it has been a busy year with exams. Because of that, I have not been in the best of shape,' she admitted yesterday.
Her recent results in the six-city series reflect this. She is without a medal so far this year. In last year's edition, she collected three golds, a silver and three bronzes.
She had also set the 100m butterfly competition record in Berlin last year with her time of 56.28 seconds. That mark has since been eclipsed by Australian Felicity Galvez (55.62).
Tao Li confessed to feeling tired, having competed in the previous three legs in Moscow, Stockholm and Berlin.
Nevertheless, she does not want to disappoint the spectators at the Singapore Sports School for the two-day competition.
She will swim in the 50m free and 100m fly today and the 50m fly tomorrow. 'Hopefully I can at least make the final for all three, but it will be tough,' she said.
She will be up against a world-class field that includes 50m fly short-course world record-holder Therese Alshammar of Sweden (24.46), 100m fly world-record holder Galvez (who clocked the 55.46 mark in the Stockholm leg) and Olympic bronze medallist Jessicah Schipper.
With next month's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Laos looming, Tao Li is hoping to find some form before flying off to Vientiane.
'I'm not too worried as I feel like I'm getting better. It's a very important competition for me as I will be representing Singapore and I want to do well,' she said.
Other Singapore SEA Games swimmers to look out for this weekend include Quah Ting Wen (freestyle events) and Rainer Ng (backstroke events).
The Singapore stop is the last leg of the series. The top man and woman will pocket US$100,000 (S$139,000) each.
South African breaststroke specialist Cameron van der Burgh leads the men on 131 points, 50 ahead of compatriot Roland Schoeman while American Jessica Hardy (170 points) is 40 ahead of Alshammar.
Said van der Burgh, who is also the defending champion: 'I didn't really expect to be in this position going into the last leg as my training hasn't been as good as last year. But it's a great feeling and hopefully I can hang on.'
Olympic backstroke champion Aaron Peirsol, who will make his first appearance in this year's series, will line up in the 100m back, 100m fly and 200m free.
Noting the pool conditions were perfect for swimmers to go fast, he said: 'We're probably going to see quite a few world records broken again this week, especially in the breast events and the 50m sprints.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.