Tao Li: I'll be back
Tao Li paused and a sheepish smile flashed across her face - but for only a second.
"In Asia, I may be the most explosive swimmer - no one can catch up with me."
It was a wild declaration made by a 24-year-old who, a day earlier at Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center, had her 50m butterfly crown ripped from her grasp, her eight years of continental dominance coming to an end in 26.10 seconds, and her Asian Games record wiped from memory.
Incheon is very likely her last Asiad, she said then.
Overnight, everything changed.
"The 50m butterfly is about explosiveness and that's something I'm born with. Maybe, in four years' time, I'll still be able to win glory for Singapore," she said yesterday.
Her swim in the 100m butterfly last night surely had something to do with her change of heart.
Clocking 1:01.71 in the morning's heats, Tao Li only just sneaked into the final, her time faster than only one of the other seven finalists.
But a gargantuan effort in the final saw her emerge from the pool with a bronze medal and her pride intact.
Her 59.08sec was just shade slower than second-placed Chinese swimmer, Lu Ying (58.45), with another Chinese, Chen Xinyi, winning in a new Asian Games record of 56.61.
The Singaporean had clocked 58.24 in winning the silver in 2010 Guangzhou and 58.96 in winning the bronze in 2006 Doha.
"People kept asking me if this was my last Asian Games and it got me thinking, I still can swim," she said.
"The 50m is not about endurance, it's more about natural speed, and I feel that I have a little more in me."
And Tao Li proved it last night, shaving just under three seconds from her 100m butterfly time - within a few hours.
"When I got into the water, all I could think about was to come out in third spot," she said.
"(The previous night in the 50m race) I was too tense, I wanted it too much. But clocking about 25sec is easy for me - in four years (at the next Asiad) if I can clock 25sec, maybe I can win a medal," she said, straight-faced.
On a continent of athletes who "try their best", and "take a game at a time", Tao Li is distinctly different.
She walks with the swagger of a young Maradona and, last night, she talked like Muhammad Ali.
But Tao Li's cockiness comes with - paradoxically - a refreshing humility.
She knows where her limits are.
"(In the 100m butterfly) I knew the two Chinese swimmers were too quick, there was no way I could beat them. Third was the best I could do."
And she did it.
"I had two individual events and two medals, I didn't waste either opportunity and completed my mission," she said.
Her next big mission comes in two years, at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and it would be hard not to back Tao Li to push her limits there.
And maybe one more time at the 2018 Asiad in Indonesia.
She has six Asian Games medals to her name now, two of each colour, from the last three Games, and she's already thinking about more.
"I enjoy the crowd, I enjoy the swimming, so yeah, maybe one more Asian Games," she said, smiling.
The smile wasn't a sheepish one.