Tao Li out of SEA Games
29-time gold medallist pulls out of last qualifying meet, saying she's not ready
Swimmer Tao Li, winner of five gold medals at the last South-east Asia (SEA) Games, will not be competing in the next edition in Kuala Lumpur in August.
The 27-year-old pulled out of the women's 50m fly heats in the China Life Singapore National Age-Group (Seniors) Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday morning, and has told The New Paper that she will not be competing at all in the meet.
The annual competition is marked by the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) as the final qualifying meet for this year's SEA Games.
Tao Li was originally slated to swim in the 50m back today, too.
The fly and back specialist said: "I don't think I was ready to give my best, and I didn't want to give anything but my 100 per cent.
The 29-time SEA Games gold medallist had resumed her training "recently" while helping to prepare Swimfast Aquatic Club swimmers prepare for this meet.
She said she eventually decided to withdraw to focus on the swimmers.
"It means that I will not be competing at the SEA Games later this year, but it's okay, perhaps I can still aim for the Asian Games next year," said Tao Li, who won the 50m fly at the 2015 SEA Games with a Games record of 26.58sec.
In her absence yesterday, Quah Ting Wen won the race in 27.22sec, bettering the SEA Games qualifying mark of 27.47sec.
The 24-year-old Swimfast Aquatic Club athlete was the only local swimmer to make SEA Games qualifying standards yesterday.
Although her 56.16sec effort in the women's 100m free failed to beat the 56.10sec qualifying mark, TNP understands that Quah, who clocked a Games record of 55.93sec to win the 100m free in 2015, will be pencilled in for the event in Kuala Lumpur, pending approval by the Singapore National Olympic Council.
"I was hoping to have a similar meet as I did last year," said Quah, who clocked the current national 100m free record of 55.52 at the same event last year.
She underwent surgery on her arm late last year, and returned to training early this year.
"I won't use the surgery as an excuse... my coaches have had to pull me back a few times (since I came back), when I almost started overtraining to make up for lost time.
"It was good that Sonya (Porter, SSA technical director) and Gary (Tan, National Training Centre head coach) were there to remind me that the goal of this meet was to qualify for the SEA Games."
Tan said Quah is "in a good place" at the moment, but acknowledged that Tao Li, who won four individual and one relay events in 2015, will be missed in KL.
Tan said: "The fact is that when you have a time trial, you have to stick with the rules... you have to make sure that you're competing based on the selection policy that's been put up for a long time."
Quah will inevitably be counted on for glory in the 50m and 100m fly this year in KL - she finished second to Tao Li in both events in 2015.
TNP asked Quah what she thought of assuming the role of butterfly queen for Singapore.
As the famous Stars Wars theme song echoed in the OCBC Aquatic Centre, Quah said: "Ask me that again, two months before the SEA Games."