National swimmer Tao Li’s gallant effort to win Singapore’s first Olympic medal since 1960 did not come to fruition this morning as she finished fifth in the Women’s 100m butterfly final at the Water Cube National Aquatics Centre in Beijing.
The plucky 18-year-old finished fifth in the event in 57.99sec, about 1.26sec behind eventual champion Libby Trickett (56.73sec) of Australia.
American Christine Magnusson was second in 57.10sec while Trickett’s compatriot Jessicah Schipper took the bronze in 57. 25sec.
China’s Zhou Yafei was fourth in 57.84sec.
Wearing her trademark blue goggles, Tao Li did look a little tense moments before her final as she prepared for the biggest swim of her life. And the pressure that the Singapore Sports School student was feeling showed in the way she swam her first 50m.
Usually strong in her starts, Tao Li was second last in the field of eight wheh she turned after completing her first 50m in 27. 29sec.
That meant a lot of catching up to do in the final length for the young lass, and although she made a valiant and courageous effort, it was all a little too much to do in the end.
Nevertheless, despite not winning a medal, Tao Li wil have much to be proud about at this Olympics. She rewrote both her national record and the Asian record twice during the heats and semi-finals. And the fact that Zhou Yafei finished in 57.84sec means that Tao Li will still walk away from the Water Cube with the Asian record to her name after her stupendous 57.54sec swim in the semis yesterday.
She can also walk away knowing that she has created Singapore sporting history by becoming the first Singapore swmmer to make it to an Olympic final. Prior to this,Singapore’s best performance in the pool in the Games came in 1984 when Ang Peng Siong won the Men’s 100m freestyle B final to emerge the ninth best swimmer in the world in that event.
And finally, she can also walk away knowing that she has won the hearts and respect of her fellow citizens back home with her scintillating performances.
The Singapore Sports Fan congratulates Tao Li and her coach, Peter Churchill, for their brilliant efforts and for the way they captured the nation’s imagnation in the past three days. Here’s wishing the duo all the best in her next event – the 200m butterfly – and even greater success at the 2012 London Olympics.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan