National swimmer and recent World Cup gold-medallist and record-breaker Tao Li has hit out at the Singapore Swimming Association for failing to turn up at Changi Airport last week to welcome her and her team-mates back from the World Cup.
The 18-year-old sensation had a fantastic FINA/Arena World Cup series in November, bagging three golds, a silver in the 10m butterfly and three bronzes in the 50m butterfly.
Her World Cup campaign ended on a high in Berlin, the last leg of the seven-leg series, when she set a new World Cup record in the 100m butterfly on 16 November. She clocked 56.28secs to beat the record of 56.34222 set by American swimmer Natalie Coughlin in 2002.
That made her the first Singapore swimmer ever to set a world record in the World Cup.
Prior to that, Tao Li had bagged a gold in the 100m butterfly in Singapore. She won a silver in the same event in Moscow, Russia before striking gold again in Stockholm, Sweden.
However, despite all her successes in the pool, Tao Li was left disappointed by the no-show by Singapore Swimming Association officials when she returned to Singapore last week.
The no-show was a huge contrast to the huge reception that national bowler and QubicaAMF World Cup champion Jasmine Yeong-Nathan received from the Singapore Bowling Federation at the airport upon her return from Mexico, where the tournament was held.
Not only had the Singapore Bowing Federation arranged for a huge crowd of friends, fans and well-wishers to welcome Yeong-Nathan back, the association also arranged for a vintage Bentley convertible, decorated with balloons, to chauffer her back to her home in Clementi.
Said Tao Li in an interview with The Sunday Times (23 November 2008): “There was no one from the association to receive us at the airport on our return from the last leg in Berlin, compared to the bowlers.
“I competed in a world event and it’s my world record there. There were three other swimmers, and they put al their effort in as well. Where’s the support for them?”
Given her growing status as a world-class swimmer, Tao Li’s criticism is bound to cause a stir in local swimming circles.
It will also make officials from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the Singapore Sports Council. After all, the MCYS and the SSC has been heavily promoting the concept of Team Singapore among its athletes, national sports associations and the public since 2001 and even has a Team Singapore department and website ( www.teamsingapore.com.sg )
However, the airport no-show by the Singapore Swimming Association suggests that despite all its efforts, the Team Singapore spirit has yet to be fully embraced by some quarters.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan
P/S: Watch a Youtube video of Tao LI’s World Cup record-breaking swim in Berlin here.