Schooling can win gold in Rio Olympics, says Tao Li
Tao Li and veteran swim coach Lim tip Schooling to strike Olympic medal in Rio
One wonders if Tao Li knew it when she prepared to take the plunge at the 2008 Games.
But the only time there was any sort of excitement generated by a Singapore swimmer in an Olympic pool at the time was way back in 1984, when Ang Peng Siong came within a whisker of becoming the first man or woman from the Republic to qualify for a final, just missing out on the top eight in the men's 100m freestyle.
Twenty-four years later, Tao Li stirred a nation when she powered into the final of the women's 100m butterfly at the Beijing Olympics, creating history as she went on to eventually finish fifth.
Joseph Schooling, another butterfly sprint specialist, also aims to make history at the 2016 Olympics, by becoming the first Singaporean to win a swimming medal, and perhaps Tao Li, more than anyone else, knows what he faces in the build-up to the Rio Games, which is set to open on Aug 5.
Now retired, Tao Li said to The New Paper recently: "Joseph will be carrying the weight of a nation's expectations on his shoulders.
"And it has become heavier since he won the 100m butterfly bronze at the World Championships last year.
"The Olympics will bring about more pressure because it's the pinnacle of the sport, and because it comes around just once every four years, but the world championship medal will no doubt give him confidence."
This will be Schooling's second Olympics, after his debut at London 2012.
Veteran coach David Lim represented Singapore at the 1984 and 1988 Games, and has tutored a number of swimmers for the Olympics.
Both Lim and Tao Li believe he can return with a medal.
"The first Olympics is where you experience what the Games are about, and there is bound to be shock and awe at seeing all the world's biggest stars in front of you.
"The second Olympics is a good time to gun for results, and it is important to hit the ground running and not take chances with anything," said Lim.
Tao Li knows how hard Schooling works, having trained with him in the United States in 2014.
Said the 26-year-old: "People are talking about him winning a medal, but I think he has what it takes to even win the gold.
"It would be the perfect reward for the hard work and sacrifice that he and his parents have put in over the years."
Schooling is one of three Singapore swimmers who will fly the flag in Rio.
The Quah siblings, Zheng Wen and Ting Wen, will also be there.
Zhen Wen, 19, met the 'A' qualifying mark for the 100m backstroke, 100m and 200m butterfly, while big sister Ting Wen, 23, earned a universality place and will swim in the 100m butterfly.
Zheng Wen aims to make a final and continue to build towards a potential medal shot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while Ting Wen will no doubt be gunning for a new national record.
The fact that all three swimmers are currently abroad - the Quah siblings are training in Paraguay with national coach Sergio Lopez, while Schooling is working with Eddie Reese at the University of Texas - will shield them from the pressure and excitement building up in Singapore.
On Tuesday, Schooling posted on his Facebook page that he "will not be responding to any messages, tweets and won't be doing any media interviews prior to the Olympics", as he looked to focus completely on his mission.
The 21-year-old knows he will be the one most Singaporeans will focus on, among the 25-strong Olympic contingent from the Republic, because he has a genuine chance of winning a medal, probably in the 100m butterfly.
They will also be excited because he will be taking on the likes of superstar Michael Phelps, defending champion Chad le Clos and Hungarian main man Laszlo Cseh.
Lim hopes Schooling doesn't ignore the little things.
"All the physical preparation would have been done in training and competition in the months and years leading up to the Olympics, so it's really the little things matter at the Games," added Lim.
"It's about how you settle down quickly once you check into the Games Village, focus, getting enough rest and even things like eating well."
How Jo compares with his rivals
- Personal best: 50.96
- 2016 best: 51.58
- Personal best: 1:55.73
- 2016 best: 1:57.37
- PB: 49.82
- 2016 best: 51.00
- PB: 1:51.51
- 2016 best: 1:54.84
CHAD LE CLOS
- PB: 50.56
- 2016 best: 51.82
- PB: 1:52.96
- 2016 best: 1:54.42
- PB: 50.86
- 2016 best: 50.86
- PB: 1:52.70
- 2016 best: 1:52.91
- PB: 1:54.08
- 2016 best: 1:54.14
- PB: 1:54.21
- 2016 best: 1:54.21