A sea of challenges: An excerpt from the book's epilogue

Sport resembles a moving walkway where life never stands still. A great player goes and another comes. A record is set and then it is broken. An athlete bench presses 140kg and then, months later, he lifts 150kg. An athlete wins an Olympic gold and then he wants another. It is this never-ending quest to be better that consumes them and in turn compels us.

Life might get better for Schooling but it will never be as innocent. The first gold in sport is always a lovely surprise, the next gold is always expected. Whenever he clambers onto the starting blocks, he will go armed with the confidence that he has done it before and yet burdened with a public expectation that he must do it again.

The world is immensely kind - as Singapore has been to him - and yet on Facebook and on Twitter it can also be idly cruel. Champions are fabulous one day and flukes the next. We raise up heroes and then casually reduce them to villains. Who knows what awaits Schooling - yet, champions often survive by going a little deaf to the noise around them. Perhaps he must remember that he swims for himself first, not for anyone else. The dreams that must always matter are his own.

On the list of summer Olympians with the most medals in history, there are seven swimmers in the top 20. Primarily because swimming, like gymnastics, has multiple events but partially because water is kinder to the body over time than land is to runners. And so if his body stays healthy and his ambition doesn't corrode, Schooling has miles to go in his lonely swimming lane. Ahead loom the 2020 Olympics and beyond that are the 2024 Games, which don't even have a host yet.

In 2018, Schooling finishes university and his world will further alter. He will turn professional, search for sponsors and an agent, and confirm if the great Eddie Reese, 77 in 2018, will still coach him.

A young man will be confronted by a sea of challenges, which is, of course, precisely how he likes it. Nothing in his life will stand still and yet, ironically, amidst all this turbulence, he will be forever propelled and sustained by a single immovable belief. That he can always go faster.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 13, 2016, with the headline 'A sea of challenges: An excerpt from the book's epilogue'. Print Edition | Subscribe