Swimming for her native Singapore, the senior breaststroke swimmer set the Singapore national 100-meter record and qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She also helped her team win the 4x100m medley relay.
I guess people just forgot about me.
This article was first published in The Daily Bruin on Jan. 16, 2008.
By Matt Stevens
AFTER ONE OF Nicolette Teo’s morning swims at the Southeast Asian Games, one of her coaches told a reporter he didn’t expect Teo to win her event.
And he wasn’t the only one who thought the veteran swimmer was past her peak.
“I guess a lot of people in Singapore, the media, swimming officials and the public, had written me off,” Teo said. “They’re like, ‘She’s old, she’s going to retire.’ It was kind of bad. ... I guess people just forgot about me.”
Three gold medals probably jogged the memories of those who had forgotten about Singapore’s team captain.
Competing in her fifth SEA Games last December, Teo captured gold in every event she swam and helped lead the Singapore national team to the top of the medal standings.
Her wins in the 100-meter breaststroke, 200m breaststroke and 4x100m medley relay also helped Teo’s native country take the most swimming gold medals of any nation at the games.
Teo’s 100m breaststroke time of 1 minute, 10.15 seconds broke both the Singapore national record and the SEA Games record for the event, while her time also qualified her for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Her 200m breaststroke time of 2:31.96 missed the SEA games record by .06 seconds but was strong enough to qualify her for the Olympics in that event.
“In terms of swimming, it was my best outing because every time I hit the water I got a gold medal,” Teo said. “I’ve always competed in the 100 and 200 but I’ve never won them both at the same time, so it was kind of cool to do it.”
Breaking the 100m breaststroke record was a highlight for Teo because the mark was previously held by Singapore great Joscelin Yeo, whom Teo idolized while growing up.
“I’d been eyeing that record for a couple of years now because prior to going into my last SEA Games, my best time was faster than the record, but I didn’t break it (at the games),” Teo said. “So it was super exciting for me to get that. The past record was Joscelin’s, and she was the one who kind of started me swimming.”
Now that she’s back at school, Teo said that being written off by so many in Singapore made her really appreciate what she has at UCLA.
“I have all the support and encouragement an athlete could want here at UCLA,” Teo said. “But I’m most thankful for how much (coach Gallagher) and (coach Hansen) believe in me.”
As for the Olympics, Teo is just grateful to be a part of the games again.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to represent their country, and this is my third time,” Teo said.
“I’m super honored to be picked to go. As good as I did at this (SEA Games) meet ... I know I can go so much faster. That makes me so excited for the Olympics. It’s definitely great to see results, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”