Team Schooling should zoom in on the sprints

Joseph Schooling's admission that he had slacked off in training after his stunning victory at last year's Rio Olympics does not square with his ambition to break the 100m butterfly world record at the Fina World Championships in Budapest (I got schooled: Jo; July 30).

There should be no shame or excuse losing to a better swimmer like Caeleb Dressel - the most talented and versatile sprinter I have seen in the last few decades - this time round.

Even the great Michael Phelps lost the 100m butterfly race to his American rival Ian Crocker at the world championships in 2003 and 2005, before dominating the event at subsequent competitions, until his defeat to Schooling last year.

Having Dressel as the prime target over the next three years should provide our champion with every incentive to better his two bronze medal performances from the 2015 and 2017 Fina World Championships at the next meet in 2019, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he will seek to retain his Olympic crown - the ultimate prize in swimming.

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Above all, Schooling and his coaches must decide if the young man's swimming future lies in the 50m and 100m butterfly/freestyle sprints, or as a butterfly specialist across the 50m to 200m races.

There is little room for further experimentation as competition heats up at the highest level.

New rivals will inevitably emerge, like Dressel and Kristof Milak - the Hungarian world junior record-holder in the 100m butterfly who pipped Schooling to the silver medal in Budapest - have done this year.

There is little room for further experimentation as competition heats up at the highest level. New rivals will inevitably emerge.

My suggestion is for Team Schooling to zoom in on the sprints and take the fight to Dressel and the rest, as the longer 200m race requires a different training regime and appears more suited to swimmers with less natural power but more endurance, like Quah Zheng Wen.

Quah can shine in the 200m butterfly as well as leverage his versatility for the individual medley events, if he builds up his physical and mental strength as well as sharpens his competitive spirit.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Team Schooling should zoom in on the sprints'. Print Edition | Subscribe