Singaporeans connect well with Tao Li

 SHE surprised the nation by becoming the first Singaporean swimmer to reach an Olympic final.

Now Tao Li could be set for even bigger things after her Beijing exploits.

The 18-year-old is seen as the new poster girl of the Foreign Sports Talent scheme.

The butterfly specialist, who moved to Singapore from Wuhan in 2003, was singled out by Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck as a foreign talent who has settled in very well.

He told the media yesterday: ‘She’s one athlete who has assimilated very well into the Singapore society.

‘She attends the Sports School, counts Singaporeans as some of her closest friends and is not afraid to speak English.

‘In fact, when I speak to her in Chinese, she insists on speaking in English.

‘She’s also fortunate to have a mother who wants the best environment for her kid.

‘So, her mother also encourages her to embrace the Singapore way of life. She doesn’t want Tao Li to be different, but just like any other Singapore teenager.’

Mr Teo revealed that he has been flooded with e-mails and messages from Singaporeans who wrote that they drew inspiration from the performances of Tao Li and the women’s table tennis team in Beijing.

But more Singaporeans seem to identify with Tao Li.

Said Mr Teo: ‘I received one e-mail from a young swimmer who said he was motivated by Tao Li and now wants to represent Singapore at the Youth Olympic Games.

‘He’s only seventh in his school, but is not afraid to dream big because of what Tao Li has done.

‘I think people can connect with Tao Li. They’ve seen her grow up in Singapore, breaking national records and now the Asian record. That’s why I think she can be a good role model for Singapore youths and foreign athletes.’

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