Aim to break free in Rio

Joseph Schooling on his way to clinching bronze in an Asian record of 50.96sec in the 100m butterfly at the world championships in Kazan, Russia - the country's first medal ever at the biennial meet.
Joseph Schooling on his way to clinching bronze in an Asian record of 50.96sec in the 100m butterfly at the world championships in Kazan, Russia - the country's first medal ever at the biennial meet. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Having bagged 100m fly world bronze, Schooling sets sights on beating Phelps, le Clos and Cseh in Olympics

The goal is still a year away but Joseph Schooling has laid down another milestone that will mark his journey as a boy from Singapore who wants to win an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro.

His route has covered the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, a gold-laden SEA Games and now the Fina World Championships, which saw him win the 100m butterfly bronze on Saturday evening.

It was a first-ever for the country and the perfect 50th-birthday gift for the nation from the 20-year-old whose progress is relentless.

And he wants to keep improving.

Speaking on the telephone from Russia yesterday, Schooling spoke about how he wants to polish his technique, upgrade his power and squeeze more endurance from his lungs to lay his hands on that medal with five rings on it.

 

  • TWO AREAS TO BE PLEASED WITH
  • 1 His first half
    Joseph Schooling says: “My first 50m went really well... 23.53 sec (at the split) was very, very good
    for me.”

    2 Strong off the wall
    He says: “My break-out off the wall was very explosive.”

  • TWO AREAS TO WORK ON
  • 1 Better finishing
    He says: “There are a couple of things that I can definitely work on. I can improve a lot more on
    the last 15-20 metres.”

    2 Generating more power
    Coach Sergio Lopez says: “He has good speed. He needs to be a bit stronger. He is at the perfect age to do something good.”

He said: "There are a couple of things that I can definitely work on. My first 50m went really well... 23.53 sec (at the split) was very, very good for me. My break out off the wall was very explosive.

"I think I can improve a lot more on the last 15-20 metres. My finishing does need some improving on.

"But if I have to rate it out of a 100 per cent, I would say I swam a 95 out of 100."

Schooling's time of 50.96 helped him finish third in Kazan, behind Chad le Clos (50.56) and Lazlo Cseh (50.87) and is the fourth-fastest time of the year (behind Michael Phelps' 50.45).

According to Singapore swimming head coach Sergio Lopez, it is "a statement" from Schooling.

The Spaniard said: "It gives him confidence now that he has got one medal (at the World Championships). Everybody is now realising that he is here to compete against the best.

"His race was very good but he needs to finish a little bit better.

"He has good speed. He needs to be a bit stronger. He is at the perfect age to do something good."

Schooling's World Championships time in Kazan would have placed him first in the previous edition in Barcelona, where le Clos won in 51.06.

At the 2012 London Olympics, Phelps won the gold in 51.21.

While Lopez is keen to restrain the hype surrounding his protege, he noted: "Joseph is now one of the best in the world. He has improved 7/10th of a second in one year (he clocked 51.69 when he won the Commonwealth silver last July).

"If he improves another 7/10th of a second, he breaks the (non-super suit) record. So Michael Phelps better get ready to swim his best time.

"The important thing is that he trains hard. There's Phelps, Jack Conger, le Clos... that's a lot of swimmers. A lot of things can happen.

"But let's enjoy it (Schooling's bronze medal) and leave Joseph to work as hard as he can."

Next August in Brazil will see Schooling facing a stellar cast in le Clos, Cseh, Tom Shields, 16-year- old Chinese prodigy Li Zhuhao and the imposing 1.93m frame of Phelps.

With the American, who is the most decorated Olympian in history with 22 medals (18 gold), still hungry for more glory in Rio, Schooling knows the 100m butterfly field there could make for one of the most exciting races ever.

He knows it will take something special to beat Phelps but, at the moment, he is satisfied with his achievement in Russia before he heads back to the pool to train for the Olympics.

"There have been more ups than downs," he said.

"I got progressively faster over the meet. I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish.

"I don't have a magic crystal ball to tell me if I can beat Phelps but I am very excited to be racing him again. To beat Phelps is not like beating someone else.

"You are up against the greatest swimmer of all time. You have to find that extra gear."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Aim to break free in Rio'. Print Edition | Subscribe