Tao Li



Tao Li (b. 10 January 1990, Wuhan, Hubei, China–) has represented Singapore in various international swimming competitions since 2005, and holds several national records in the sport.1 At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she became the first Singaporean swimmer ever to qualify for an Olympic final.2

Early life and education
Tao Li was born in the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China.3 The only child of Tao Ran and Li Yan, both swimming coaches, Tao showed a talent for swimming very early on. She started wading in swimming pools at the age of one and could swim 25 m without her float by the age of five.4


Tao’s parents came to Singapore in January 2001 to look for work, taking their 11-year-old daughter with them. In May 2001, Li Yan began coaching at the APS Swim School founded by former national swimmer Ang Peng Siong, while Tao and her father returned to China.5 Back in China, Tao joined the Hubei provincial swim team and was placed on the list of national swimming selectors.6

Tao returned to Singapore without her father at the end of 2003 and started school the following year as a Primary 5 student at Queenstown Primary School.7 Her parents wanted to give their daughter a chance to realise her sports potential, but knowing the short shelf life of athletes, they also wanted her to have a good education. Hence in 2006, Tao entered the Singapore Sports School, where she is currently receiving her secondary education, in addition to sports training.8 She became a Singapore citizen in 2005.9

Competitive swimming career
Tao made her debut as a competitive swimmer in 2005, at the age of 15.10 Her small stature initially raised some doubts about how far she could go, but she has since stunned both her fellow Singaporeans and the international swimming community with her sheer talent and grit.11


In her first year, Tao won eight gold medals (including one for the 4x100 m medley relay) and one bronze medal at two international competitions – the 1st Hong Kong Open Invitational Swimming Championships and the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in Manila, the Philippines.12 She again made Singapore proud in 2006 when she won a gold in the Asian Games – the first since 1982 – by clocking 26.73 seconds in the 50-metre butterfly final, and in 2007 when she became the first Singaporean female swimmer to reach the finals of the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) world championships.13

In 2008, when Tao became the first Singaporean swimmer to make it to an Olympic final, even Olympic gold medallist Libby Trickett of Australia took notice. Tao and Trickett had competed in the 100-metre butterfly final and Trickett came in first. Although Tao finished fifth, Trickett had this to say about her opponent: “It is an amazing achievement for her to qualify for the final, considering this is her first Olympics. Sometimes, people underestimate how hard it is to get into the top eight at the Olympics. Obviously, she knows how to handle the pressure and she’s got a bright future ahead of her”.14

Tao bagged five medals – four individual events as well as the 4x100 m medley relay – at the 25th Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane, Laos, including for the 200-metre butterfly where she bettered her own 2005 Games record in a time of 2 min 13.49 s.15 In 2014, Tao clinched a silver and bronze for the 50-metre and 100-metre butterfly events respectively at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.16

Medals won at international events (individual)

1st Hong Kong Open Invitational Swimming Championships 200517

Gold: 50 m butterfly
Gold: 100 m butterfly
Gold: 200 m butterfly
Gold: 50 m backstroke

23rd Southeast Asian Games 2005, Manila, Philippines18

Gold: 100 m backstroke
Gold: 200 m backstroke
Gold: 200 m butterfly
Bronze: 100 m butterfly

Milo 7th Asia Swimming Championships 2006, Singapore19

Gold: 50 m butterfly
Bronze: 100 m butterfly

2nd Hong Kong Open Swimming Championships 200620

Gold: 50 m butterfly
Gold: 100 m butterfly
Gold: 50 m backstroke
Gold: 100 m backstroke

15th Asian Games 2006, Doha, Qatar21

Gold: 50 m butterfly
Bronze: 100 m butterfly

3rd Hong Kong International Open Swimming Championships 200722

Gold: 50 m butterfly
Gold: 100 m butterfly
Gold: 50 m backstroke
Gold: 100 m backstroke

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2007, Singapore23

Silver: 50 m butterfly
Silver: 100 m butterfly
Silver: 200 m individual medley

24th Southeast Asian Games 2007, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand24

Gold: 100 m backstroke
Gold: 100 m butterfly
Gold: 200 m butterfly
Silver: 200 m individual medley

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008, Singapore25

Gold: 100 m butterfly
Bronze: 50 m butterfly

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008, Moscow, Russia26

Silver: 100 m butterfly
Bronze: 50 m butterfly

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008, Stockholm, Sweden27

Gold: 100 m butterfly

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008, Berlin, Germany28

Gold: 100 m butterfly
Bronze: 50 m butterfly

25th Southeast Asian Games 2009, Vientiane, Laos29

Gold: 100 m butterfly
Gold: 100 m backstroke
Gold: 200 m butterfly
Gold: 200 m backstroke


Awards
Sportswoman of the Year 2007 and 2008, Singapore National Olympic Council30
Best Female Athlete (Senior) 2008, Singapore Swimming Association31

The Straits Times Athlete of the Year 200832

Singapore national records (individual events)
Open – Women

Event33

Time (min:s)

Competition

Date

100 m backstroke

01:00.65 (short course)

2009 FINA World Cup, Durban, South Africa

16 Oct 2009

200 m backstroke

02:17.12

25th SEA Games 2009, Vientiane, Laos

10 Dec 2009

100 m butterfly

00:57.54 (long course)

29th Olympic Games 2008, Beijing, China

10 Aug 2008

 

00:56.28 (short course)

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008, Berlin, Germany

15 Nov 2008

200 m butterfly

02:12.63

29th Olympic Games 2008, Beijing, China

12 Aug 2008


Under 17 – Girls

Event34

Time (min:s)

Competition

Date

200 m backstroke

02:17.55

23rd Southeast Asian Games 2005, Manila, Philippines

29 Nov 2005

50 m butterfly

00:26.73

15th Asian Games 2006, Doha, Qatar

7 Dec 2006

100 m butterfly

00:58.96

15th Asian Games 2006, Doha, Qatar

2 Dec 2006

200 m butterfly

02:14.11

23rd Southeast Asian Games 2005, Manila, Philippines

3 Dec 2005


FINA world swimming rankings
As at 2009, Tao is the only swimmer to represent an Asian country in FINA’s top 10 world rankings for the short-course 50-metre and 100-metre women’s butterfly events.35




Author
Valerie Chew



References
1. Foo, A. (2005, August 3). Tao Li looks like the next JoscelinThe Straits Times, p. 13; Our golden girls. (2008, August 12). The New Paper, p. 45. Retrieved from NewpaperSG.
2. Tao Li’s size is no handicap: Thorpe. (2008, August 24). The New Paper, p. 56; Pereira, M. (2009, January 30). Athlete of Year Tao Li inspired S’poreansThe Straits Times, p. 7; Wong, J. (2008, November 23). Leaving friends, family behind. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Foo, A. (2005, August 3). Tao Li looks like the next JoscelinThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Lim, L. (2006, December 10). From English lessons to swimming goldThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Dizon, A. R. (2006, May 24). Water babe on the boil. The New Paper, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36; Foo, A. (2005, August 3). Tao Li looks like the next JoscelinThe Straits Times, p. 13; Wong, J. (2008, November 23). Leaving friends, family behindThe Straits Times, p. 38; Dizon, A. R. (2006, May 24). Water babe on the boil. The New Paper, p. 51; Lim, L. (2006, December 10). From English lessons to swimming goldThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36; Dizon, A. R. (2006, May 24). Water babe on the boil. The New Paper, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Our golden girls. (2008, August 12). The New Paper, p. 45; Dizon, A. R. (2006, May 24). Water babe on the boil. The New Paper, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Pereira, M. (2009, January 30). Athlete of Year Tao Li inspired S’poreansThe Straits Times, p. 7; Lai, D. (2007, March 31). A world first for Tao Li. Today, p. 41; Tao Li’s size is no handicap: Thorpe. (2008, August 24). The New Paper, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association. (2005, September 8). 1st Hong Kong Open Invitational Swimming Championships 2005. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association website: http://www.hkasa.org.hk/HKC2005.pdf; Our golden girls. (2008, August 12). The New Paper, p. 45. Retrieved from NewpaperSG.
13. Lim, L. (2006, December 10). From English lessons to swimming goldThe Straits Times, p. 4; Lai, D. (2007, March 31). A world first for Tao Li. Today, p. 41; Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lim, H. M. (2008, August 12). What next for Tao Li? The New Paper, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. WebCite. (2009, December 15). 25th SEA Games Laos Vientiane 2009. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from WebCite website: http://www.webcitation.org/5m1z1wro2; Lim, L. (2009, December 15). The comeback kid. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Singapore Swimming Association. (2014). Tao Li wins women’s 50m butterfly silver medal. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Singapore Swimming Association website: http://www.swimming.org.sg/SSA/NEWS-MEDIA/Latest-News/Archived-News/2014/Tao-Li-wins-Women%E2%80%99s-50m-Butterfly-silver-medal.aspx; Singapore Swimming Association. (2014). Tao Li wins women’s 100m butterfly bronze medal. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Singapore Swimming Association website: http://www.swimming.org.sg/SSA/NEWS-MEDIA/Latest-News/Archived-News/2014/Tao-Li-wins-Women%E2%80%99s-100m-Butterfly-bronze-medal.aspx
17. Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association. (2005, September 8). 1st Hong Kong Open Invitational Swimming Championships 2005. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association website: http://www.hkasa.org.hk/HKC2005.pdf
18. Dizon, A. R. (2006, May 24). Water babe on the boil. The New Paper, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lee, Y. L. (2006, March 12). Red is Tao Li’s lucky colour. The Straits Times, p. 35. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association. (2006, September 5). 2nd Hong Kong Open Swimming Championships 2006. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association website: http://www.hkasa.org.hk/HKC2006.pdf
21. Lim, L. (2006, December 10). From English lessons to swimming goldThe Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, C. (2007, March 3). Two women who don’t know defeatToday, p. 36; Raymond, J. (2007, June 9). Towering Tao Li breaks Li’s reignToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association. (2007, August 29). 3rd Hong Kong International Open Swimming Championships 2007. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association website: http://www.hkasa.org.hk/hkc07.pdf
23. Swimming Statistics. (2010, July 7). FINA Arena Swimming World Cup 2007. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Swimming Statistics website: http://scmsom.se/results/WC%202007/FINA%20Arena%20Swimming%20World%20Cup%202007%20Scoring%20Singapore%20Women.htm
24. Wang, J. (2007, December 15). Four to the foreThe Straits Times, p. 88. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Singapore’s sporting achievements in 2008. (2008, December 29). The New Paper, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Singapore’s sporting achievements in 2008. (2008, December 29). The New Paper, p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Singapore’s sporting achievements in 2008. (2008, December 29). The New Paper, p. 38; Pereira, M. (2009, January 30). Athlete of Year Tao Li inspired S’poreansThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Singapore’s sporting achievements in 2008. (2008, December 29). The New Paper, p. 38; Pereira, M. (2009, January 30). Athlete of Year Tao Li inspired S’poreansThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. WebCite. (2009, December 15). 25th SEA Games Laos Vientiane 2009. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from WebCite website: http://www.webcitation.org/5m1z1wro2; Lim, L. (2009, December 15). The comeback kid. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Raymond, J. (2007, June 9). Towering Tao Li breaks Li’s reignToday, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore National Olympic Council. (2016). Singapore Sports Awards. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Singapore National Olympic Council website: http://www.singaporeolympics.com/singapore-sports-awards/
31. Yip, D. (2008, April 7). Best of swimming fraternity honoured. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Red Sports website: https://www.redsports.sg/2008/04/07/manulife-singapore-swimming-assocation-awards/
32. Pereira, M. (2009, January 30). Athlete of Year Tao Li inspired S’poreansThe Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Singapore Swimming Association. (n.d.). National women’s open records (SCM). Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Singapore Swimming Association website: http://www.swimming.org.sg/SSA/SWIMMING/Records/National-Women-s-Open-Records-(SCM).aspx; Singapore Swimming Association. (n.d.). National women’s open records (LCM). Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Singapore Swimming Association website: http://www.swimming.org.sg/SSA/SWIMMING/Records/National-Women-s-Open-Records-(LCM).aspx
34. Singapore Swimming Association. (n.d.). National Girl’s U17 Records (LCM). Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Singapore Swimming Association website: http://www.swimming.org.sg/SSA/SWIMMING/Records/National-Girl-s-U17-Records-(LCM).aspx
35. FINA. (2016). Women’s top 100 ranking. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from FINA website: http://www.fina.org/content/swimming-world-ranking



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Women swimmers--Singapore--Biography
Sports, recreation and travel>>Water sports>>Swimming
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies
Tao, Li, 1990-