All our country’s newspapers were filled today with stories and photographs of swimming Tao Li returning from her triumphant Beijing Olympics campaign yesterday morning. And yes, she deserves the limelight after her extraordinary and history-making performances in the pool.
She not only became the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic swimming final -100m butterfly – but also finished fifth in the event. She also broke the national and Asian record for the event twice.
That’s not all – she also set a new national record for the 200m butterfly in her heat even though her time was not enough to see her into the semi-finals.
But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the rest of our Singapore swimming contingent whose noteworthy achievements at Beijing were overshadowed by Tao Li’s.
Not surprisingly, they were hardly given a mention in all the newspaper reports today.
The super coverage that Tao Li received masks the fact that the rest of our other Singapore swimmers came home with three national records on their own, even though none of them went beyond their heats in Beijing.
And that was a refreshing change after the dismal results and underachievement by our swimmers in the previous three Olympics (No need to mention names – do your own homework on the net and you can see who they are…)
So how did each of our swimmers do individually? Here’s a run-down:
Bryan Tay sliced an impressive two seconds off his national record of 1min 52.09sec when he finished his 200m freestyle heat in 1:50.41. He had set his previous record at the 2006 Asian Games, which goes to show that Bryan does thrive on the big stage. Well done!
I was also impressed with Quah Ting Wen, who, if you recall, had a tumultuous build-up to Beijing after national high performance coach Jack Simon quit on 25 June, 34 days before the Olympics.
Swimmers made of lesser material would have probably been emotionally and psychologically affected by the setback. Ting Wen, 16, on the other hand, rose above it.
She missed out narrowly on Joscelin Yeo’s national record of 56.05sec when she won her heat in 56.14sec. But she bounced back in the 400m individual medley a couple of days later to break the national record (also held by Joscelin).
Ting Wen clocked 4min 51.25sec to shave Joscelin’s mark of 4:51.25.
Lynette Lim also broke a national record – on her third attempt – after missing out in the 200m and 400m freestyle.
She clocked 2min 02.30sec in the 200m, below her own national mark of 2:02.16 set a couple of months earlier. Likewise, her time of 4min 17.67sec in the 400m free was about a second off her national mark of 4:16.42.
She finally made it in the 800m freestyle when she finished in 8min 45.56sec to slice an impressive three seconds off her national record of 8:48.46.
The only swimmer who didn’t do well at the Olympics was Nicolette Teo. She was surprisingly way off her personal best times in both her events – the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
She clocked 1min 12.87sec, two seconds off her national record of 1:10.15 which she set at last year’s SEA Games in Korat, Thailand. And she finished her 200m breaststroke heat in 2min 34.60sec, three seconds off her national mark of 2:31.96, also set at last year’s SEA Games.
But I’ve also read Nicolette’s searingly honest blog entry in The Straits Times on her performances at the Olympics, “Lessons from Beijing 2008, and I give her props for not coming up with any excuses. You can read her comments here.
So, take a bow, guys. All of you did well – and I really look forward to seeing you build on them and turning these performances into medal-winning swims at next year’s SEA Games and the 2008 Asian Games.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan