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Lim Say Heng
Friday, Sep 19, 2014

Sports

Off to land a hat-trick

The New Paper | Lim Say Heng | Friday, Sep 19, 2014

The 24-year-old was the only swimmer who left for Incheon yesterday morning from Changi Airport as most of the team have been in Osaka for the past week for a staging camp, while Joseph Schooling will fly to South Korea from the United States, where he is based.

After checking in yesterday, accompanied by her parents, Tao said: "I have a slight injury to my left ankle, for which I had been receiving treatment here... but an athlete suffers from minor illnesses and injuries all the time. I am fine to compete in the Asian Games.

"Also, I didn't want to fly to Osaka just two days after landing in Singapore from the US; it's a lot of flying just before a major Games and it would have disrupted my preparations."

The two-time Olympian is aiming to win her third consecutive 50m butterfly gold at the Asiad, which starts on Friday and ends on Oct 4, after winning the sprint event in Doha and Guangzhou in 2006 and 2010, respectively.

ON THE PODIUM

She also won a bronze in the 100m butterfly at the 2006 Doha Games and silver in Guangzhou in 2010.

But the 50m fly is her speciality, although the stocky swimmer faces an uphill battle to retain her title - she finished fifth with a season-best 26.26 seconds at the Commonwealth Games in July in Glasgow.

That timing places her third in Asia this year - China's Lu Ying tops the list with 25.94, while Japan's Miki Uchida is second on 26.20.

The Singaporean won the 2010 event in a Games-record time of 26.10, which is also the national record.

But Tao is hoping her stint in the US, where she trained under Schooling's former coach Sergio Lopez since April this year, will bear fruit.

In her stint with Lopez before the Commonwealth Games, the 1988 Olympic 200m breast bronze medallist pushed the Singaporean to the brink of exhaustion with weight exercises.

But, the focus of her training shifted after the Glasgow Games to get her ready for the Asiad, her target meet for 2014.

Tao said: "In the last month, Sergio and I have been working lesser on my strength and more on my explosive power, so in a way I feel less tired (than I was at the Commonwealth Games) and my muscles are less tight."

She will see if her training pays off when the swimming competition kicks off on Sunday, in what is likely to be her last hurrah at the continental level.

The Asian Games is a quadriennial event, like the Commonwealth Games, and both events always fall in the same year.

The Olympic Council of Asia has decided to move the next Asian Games to 2019, the year before the 2020 Olympics, and avoid a similar clash.

And Tao Li said: "This year's Games is probably my last since the next one is five years away, but we'll see."

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Sept 17, 2014.
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