Tuesday, October 7

Some words of Wisdom from a World Class Swimmer!

She aims to make a big splash

Singapore's swimming darling shares her experiences at the S'pore Sports School. -ST

Wed, Oct 08, 2008
The Straits Times

THE Olympic Games have been my dream since I was a young swimmer.

When I first started swimming, I imagined standing on the winner's podium and receiving my medal.

I was five.

Not hard to believe, especially with me coming from a family with a strong swimming background. Although no one forced me to swim, I always felt comfortable in the water. It makes me feel free.

By the time I was 10, I had started my competitive career, and in my first contest, won two gold medals and broke two age records.

It made me more determined to make it to the Olympics, and each time I won or broke a record, I would tell myself that I was one step closer to my dream.

But it was never easy. I had to make sacrifices.

I'll always remember how hard things were for my mother and me when we began our new life here, after we moved to Singapore when I was 13.

She was the only family member I had close by, and is always there for me.

We had our share of struggles adjusting, when everything was new and unfamiliar.

Because of my standard of English, I was placed in a Primary 5 class in Queenstown Primary School, although I was 13.

At that point, my rigorous training schedule began.

I woke up daily at 6am for school, then trained after school till about 11pm - so much so I felt like a machine because I got so little rest. I hated waking so early, when others were still snuggled in bed.

Unlike other teenagers, I do not get to go out often with my friends, and my holidays are spent in intensive training.

Even a treat at a fast-food restaurant is not allowed. I have to stick to a strict diet.

After I was admitted to the Singapore Sports School, I received world-class training while pursuing my studies.

Each time I compete or train overseas, I have to catch up when I return.

In the two months before the Olympics, when I had to train intensively, the school even adjusted my academic timetable to put my mind at ease.

The one thing that keeps me going through all these struggles is my family. Without their encouragement and support, I would not be where I am.

In the years we have lived here, we have adapted quite well to the lifestyle. The hardships we endured made us appreciate better what we now have.

The only way I can repay my mother is to make her proud of my swimming achievements. It is my driving force.

I'd like to tell young people: Believe in yourself and give all you can to achieve your dreams. Victory will definitely be sweet. Never tell yourself 'I am already there', and rest on your laurels.

The only way to be the best is to persevere.

The next thing that I'm looking forward to is the Fina Arena World Tour at the end of month, where I'll compete in places such as Sweden, Germany and Moscow.

Next stop on the way to my big dream: Top three at the London Olympics, 2012.

Wuhan-born Tao Li, 18, is a Secondary 3 student at the Singapore Sports School. At the Beijing Olympic Games, she was the youngest swimmer among eight finalists in the 100m butterfly event and came in fifth. She also broke the Asian record in the 100m butterfly.

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 6, 2008.

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