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June 4, 2008
SWIMMING
Club dispute threatens to derail Tao Li
Swimmer's Olympic hopes in jeopardy after she insists on representing new club
By Lin Xinyi
ST FILE PHOTO
A DISPUTE with her former club is threatening to derail Tao Li's preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

The 2006 Asian Games gold medallist insists she will only represent Swimfast Aquatic Club (SAC) - not former club Aquatic Performance Swim Club (APSC) - at the Singapore National Swimming Championships.

The event starts today at the Singapore Sports School.

Because of this, she may not even swim in her final major tune-up before the Olympics.

Should that happen, she would forego her last chance of qualifying for more events at the Olympics.

Performances achieved at the SNSC are recognised by Fina towards qualification for the Olympic Games.

Tao Li has thus far qualified for just one Olympic event - the 100m butterfly - when she met the 'A' mark at last year's Melbourne World Championships.

The 18-year-old said yesterday: 'This is the last swim meet in Singapore before the Olympics. It's a form of training too.

'If I don't swim, it'll more or less be a loss for me.'

The Sportswoman of the Year had registered to take part in six events - 50m breaststroke, fly, backstroke and free, 100m fly and 200m fly - under current club SAC, which she joined in 2006.

Of the six events, only the 50m free, 100m fly and 200m fly are Olympic events.

However, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) has not officially sanctioned her move from APSC to SAC.

The SSA was not available for comment yesterday.

Ang Peng Siong, founder of APSC and who first nurtured Tao Li in 2001, said: 'I believe the status as it is now is that Tao Li's still a part of the club.'

But Tao Li's mother Li Yan countered: 'If she swims, it'll be for Swimfast. If not, she won't swim.'

When asked why they wanted to change clubs, Li said: 'It's not convenient to say why. I think the environment at SAC suits her better.

'Tao Li has been with APSC all along and has given them a lot of recognition.

'They played a role in Tao Li getting Singapore citizenship and we've repaid them with our results over the years.'

While Li Yan did not want to elaborate, sources said that a contract dispute prompted Tao Li to leave APSC.

Tao Li has been an SAC member training with the club on weekends since October 2006.

Following the SSA's swimmer registration scheme implemented this year, she registered as a SAC member on Feb 27.

On weekdays, she trains at the Singapore Sports School, where she is a student.

When her entries under SAC for the SNSC were not approved last week, SAC head coach David Lim wrote in to the SSA.

He said: 'I'm just doing my part as an affiliate by questioning why my member was taken out of my competitors' list.

'I would have done the same for any of my members.'

Li was just as shocked when she read the competition programme on Sunday and realised her daughter was registered to compete under team APSC.

Li said: 'The switch was made long ago. But, just as the competition was getting under way, the SSA said that she has to swim for APSC without our consent and without notifying us.'

linxinyi@sph.com.sg

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