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All eyes on Joseph Schooling, Tao Li at Commonwealth Games

The two swimmers share some details of their training regime ahead of their Commonwealth Games campaign, which kicks off in Glasgow on Thursday (July 24). 

SINGAPORE: All eyes will be on Joseph Schooling and Tao Li when they begin their Commonwealth Games campaign in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday (July 24). Ahead of their races, here is a sneak peek at their preparations in the United States, where they were based.

After winning five gold medals at last year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar, expectations are high for 19-year-old Schooling. But he is unfazed by the burden of carrying a nation's hopes.

"I set pretty high goals for myself, high standards. I always want to do my best," he said. "If I go in there, I swim my heart out, and give it 100 per cent. If I win, I win. If I lose, that means the guy is better than me."

Schooling has been studying and training at the Bolles School in Florida for the past five years. In the build-up to the Commonwealth Games, he has stepped up the intensity of his training, working on his turns and the speed of his strokes.

His Spanish coach Sergio Lopez said he also focused on building up Schooling's mental strength: "The most important thing is the mind of the swimmer. Some days you have to create conflict - it makes you grow and understand the chance you have to do something special."

Schooling's state of mind was under the spotlight at the 2012 London Olympics. Then, he blamed his eighth-place finish on a late change of cap and goggles. It is an incident Schooling still remembers vividly. "That was a huge melting point for me," he admits. "Two years down the road, I would say that I have learned a lot. I am in no way, no way close to my full potential yet. Psychologically, I have a lot of things that I still have to learn, and a lot of things I still have to work out internally. That is something that only I can help myself."

Since May, he has had a Singapore team-mate for company - swim queen Tao Li has been training with Schooling in Florida. "I have never before trained with so many Olympians in one group and in one programme, so I think I really enjoy the time here," she said of the experience. "Surrounding me are all boys or men. I think even though they swim slowly, they are faster than me, so I just try to keep up with them."

The 24-year old is using the Commonwealth Games to gear up for September's Asian Games in South Korea, which is likely to be her last. "That is the most important thing for my career. Because I got gold in 2006 and 2010, so one more - that is why I sacrificed everything, family, friends back home in China and Singapore," she revealed. "My Mum misses me and wants me to retire and she thinks that it is time for me to go on another pathway, like start my own club, do some studies, finish my university. But she believes in me and trusts me to do well, so she let me come to the US."

According to her coach Lopez, Tao's continued training in the US will depend on a review of her progress after the Asian Games.

Team Singapore athletes also got a morale boost on Wednesday, when President Tony Tan Keng Yam stopped in at the Commonwealth Games Village, where he visited the Singapore House and toured the facilities.

The President found the athletes in good spirits and wished them well. He will be in Glasgow till July 27, and will attend the Opening Ceremony and visit some competition venues.

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