Swim star Tao Li opens coaching academy
Singapore star opens swim academy to coach 'next generation'
She's competed with the best, and trained in some of the top swimming nations.
Now, Tao Li wants to pass the knowledge on as a coach,.
The two-time Asian Games gold medallist started her own academy - Taoli Swimming Club - earlier this month.
"I've always wanted to start my own swim school, but this is the right time to do it because I am cutting down on my swimming and focusing more on my studies," said the 25-year-old SIM business management undergraduate yesterday.
"I have trained under great coaches in Australia, the United States, China and Singapore and I feel that I have a lot of experience and knowledge to pass on to the next generation of swimmers."
Tao Li, who will graduate next October, spent about three months after the SEA Games in June to come up with her own training syllabus, and intends to focus on Learn to Swim programmes and school-level swimmers for a start.
"It's been a lot more nerve-wracking and pressurising doing this than swimming," she said.
"With swimming, I know what level I can get to if I train hard. But, in setting up a business, I am diving into the unknown. I don't know how much success I will get even if I put in my all."
She has been coaching swimmers "on and off" before setting up her own school, which is based at the Temasek Club at Rifle Range Road.
She has had offers to join other clubs as a coach, but decided to strike it out on her own because she wants to be an entrepreneur.
"I've had potential investors sounding me out, but I prefer to go at it on my own even though it might be harder," said the Wuhan-born Singaporean.
"I may tap on these investors next time when I want to expand my club."
Expansion is on the radar, and Tao Li hopes to eventually set up satellite centres in different parts of the island, as well as outside of Singapore.
"I also hope to work with schools, unearth and bring up new talent, and then use my connections in countries such as Australia and the US to make them SEA Games or Asian-level swimmers," said the butterfly specialist, who is offering trial classes with the soft launch of her club.
She aims to tap into her network of current and former athletes from other sports here - such as badminton and table tennis - to build a multi-sport club one day.
"I'm already in the midst of talking to some of my contacts and the early signs are positive, although this expansion will happen at least a few years down the road," she said.
Tao Li is the first Singapore swimmer to make an Olympic final after her unforgettable performance when she finished fourth in the women's 100m butterfly at the 2008 Beijing Games.
While competitive swimming has now taken a back seat, the spunky Singapore Sports School alumni intends to compete in at least her pet event, the 50m butterfly, at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017, and possibly the 2018 Asian Games.
She said: "I know that the 50m fly title is still mine to lose at the SEA Games, but I have to assess my form, as well as how my club are doing, if I want to compete at the Asian Games.
"I have won medals at the Asian level and I won't be interested in doing the same unless I feel that I have the form to win the gold.
"I will be 26 next year already. I can't possibly go on swimming competitively forever, even though it is a comfortable life since I get allowances," added the former SpexScholar, who left the scheme after the SEA Games this year.
"If I train and compete, I want to be the best, not because I get an income and have a comfortable life.
"I need to start building a (post-swimming) career for myself, too."