YOG Day 7 – From Olympian to YOG Chef de Mission
Two-time Olympian and former Asian Games champion Tao Li at the Youth Olympic Village
By Justin Kor in Buenos Aires
Two-time Olympian and former Asian Games champion Tao Li has become a household name in Singapore. But she took on a brand new challenge over the past week: as a first-time Chef de Mission (CDM), the swimmer is in charge of our young athletes at the Youth Olympic Games. We sit down with her to ask her how things have been so far.
How has your first experience of being a CDM been like?
I think the role of the CDM is quite a heavy responsibility. I have to make sure that every athlete is safe, and be aware of everything that they do. There are a lot of things to learn. It’s quite different from being an athlete. As an athlete I can just focus on myself and care about my own races. But as a CDM you have to care about everyone else – not just the athletes but coaches as well. But I enjoy it and I’ve learn a lot. I hope that in the future I have other chances to take CDM roles in bigger Games.
What is the daily life like here for CDMs?
We have a CDM meeting every morning to receive updates, give feedback or raise any issues to the organisers. For instance, we have to handle the departures and arrivals of the athletes every day. We also have to make sure there’s enough food for the athletes, and be aware of where to send them in the case of medical emergencies. It’s all about the small details.
How did you prepare yourself for this role?
I tried to get to know every athlete. For instance, finding out about about their personalities and the events they’re competing in. I was worried that I couldn’t really do this job properly, so I asked Mrs Jessie Phua (Singapore’s CDM to the 2012 Olympic Games) for advice. She said, ‘Just care about the athletes. Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll be fine.’
Any interesting stories to share of your time as CDM in Buenos Aires?
The toilet was spoilt in the one of the athletes’ rooms next to mine one night, and they were really worried because they had a race the next day and they couldn’t use the toilet the whole night. I asked them to calm down and use our toilets instead, and I tried to find someone to fix it in the middle of the night. In the end they spent four hours fixing it and it still didn’t work. That’s most interesting story. It’s good that we don’t have more interesting stories like this! We want everything to be as smooth as it can.
What has impressed you most here in Buenos Aires?
It’s quite different from the Olympics that I went to. There is more emphasis on the culture and education part of the Games. The young athletes get to learn new things, rather than only focusing on their performance. For instance, they have role models like Olympic champions and athletes coming to talk to them on how to be better athletes, and they learn how to juggle study and training better. I think it’s a very good experience. If I could have this during my time, maybe I would have performed better in the future. It prepares them well for future big events.
What do you think of Singapore’s performance at these Games?
We didn’t get any medals – although we did get a gold that didn’t count to the medal tally. But I think the medal is a sign of encouragement and it’s very important. It’s a little regrettable that we’re going home without any medals we can count. But this is the Youth Olympic Games, so it is of a very high standard. I think it has been a very good experience for them, and they’ve tried their best in the Games – that’s all we can ask for.
Singaporeans in action on day 7
Mixed Two-Person Multihull Day 6 of 6 – Chia Teck Pin & Sophia Meyers finished 12th out of 14 overall
Mixed International Teams Preliminary Stage
Pavlovic Andrea & Bentancor Fernandez Martin (Intercontinental -4) beat Goi Rui Xuan & Koen Pang (SGP) 2-1. SGP did not qualify for the Round of 16.