Things going swimmingly for Singapore Swimming Association

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (second from right) giving swimmer Tao Li her Female Athlete of the Year (Swimming) award at the event on April 24, 2016. With them are Sport Singapore chairman Richard Seow (left) and Singapore Swim
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (second from right) giving swimmer Tao Li her Female Athlete of the Year (Swimming) award at the event on April 24, 2016. With them are Sport Singapore chairman Richard Seow (left) and Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

At annual awards, Lopez confident the next Tao Li will emerge from promising crop of girls

On a night when two of Singapore's most celebrated swimmers responsible for the country's biggest achievements in the international arena were lauded for their achievements in 2015, national coach Sergio Lopez assured that the future of local swimming will remain bright.

Yesterday evening, national swim stars Joseph Schooling and Tao Li were honoured by the Singapore Swimming Association, at its awards and appreciation night at the Shangri-La Hotel, with the male and female Athlete of the Year (Swimming) award respectively .

Schooling, 20, swept all nine of his events at the SEA Games at home last June, and won Singapore's first-ever medal at the Fina World Swimming Championships last August. Likewise, Tao clinched golds in all five events she had entered at the SEA Games.

But while Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen - the only swimmers so far to have made the Olympic 'A' mark - leads the male pack, there is a gap in the female ranks after butterfly specialist Tao decided to put elite training aside for now as she focuses on her new swim school and studies.

But Lopez dismissed concerns of a lack of female swimmers of her calibre, and he is confident that a next Tao Li will arise from a promising crop of youngsters.

  • SSA AWARDS NIGHT 2016

  • MAIN AWARDS

    Club Coach of the Year: Leonard Tan

    Male Athlete of the Year (swimming): Joseph Schooling

    Female Athlete of the Year (swimming): Tao Li

    Male Athlete of the Year (water polo): Lee Kai Yang

    Female Athlete of the Year (water polo): Eunice Fu

    Athlete of the Year (diving): Freida Lim

    Athlete of the Year (synchronised swimming):
    Crystal Yap and Stephanie Chen

    SOCIAL MEDIA AWARDS

    Breakout Performance of the Year: Zachary Ian Tan

    Inspiration of the Year: Pang Sheng Jun

    Aquatic Moment of the Year: Mark and Timothy Lee Synchronised 3m finals (diving)

    Story of the Year: Asean Para Games – Yeo shrugs off pain to compete, Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, Dec 8, 2015

    Photo of the Year: Adrian Seetho

He noted: "We have a stable batch of young (under-17) swimmers like (Hoong) En Qi, (Quah) Jing Wen. And even the older ones like Amanda (Lim), (Quah) Ting Wen and Roanne Ho, they are clocking faster times than before.

"I don't care about the deficiencies we've had in the past. Joseph's (success) didn't happen in two days.

"When you look at the world's top 10 female swimmers, you won't find many youngsters below 25. So I believe we have enough talent right now such that by the next Olympics, they're going to be at their prime."

One of Asia's most established butterfly sprinters, Tao is a two-time Asian Games gold medallist and became the first Singaporean swimmer to make an Olympic final in 2008.

While the 26-year-old agreed that there is no local female swimmer good enough to win an Asiad gold for now, she is hopeful that her successor will come sooner or later.

She said: "I hope that even if I am not swimming, there'll always be someone up there."

And she chirped: "Maybe it's time I groom one."

Besides running her swim school, which currently have 50 children between the ages of five and 11, Tao attends classes four times a week for her business management course at the Singapore Institute of Management-RMIT.

But she is not done with competition yet. The relaxed and jovial swimmer is targeting a comeback in the pool following the completion of her studies in November.

She wants a final hurrah at the 2018 Asian Games, where she said it will be her last competition before rounding up a glittering career.

Tao said: "It's time for a change in career and to let the young swimmers grow. I think that (2018 Asian Games) will be my last one and then it's time for me to step down."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Things going swimmingly'. Print Edition | Subscribe