From Russia with love

Joseph Schooling with his bronze medal for the 100m butterfly at the world championships yesterday. He clocked 50.96sec, a new Asian record, as he finished behind Chad le Clos (50.56) and Laszlo Cseh (50.87).
Joseph Schooling with his bronze medal for the 100m butterfly at the world championships yesterday. He clocked 50.96sec, a new Asian record, as he finished behind Chad le Clos (50.56) and Laszlo Cseh (50.87).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Schooling first S'pore swimmer to win medal at world c'ships

Even as the Republic awakens today to celebrate its history, a young Singaporean of prodigious sporting talent went to bed last night reflecting on his own improbable journey.

Unlike his barren Fina World Championships debut two years ago in Barcelona, there was only triumph and vindication for Joseph Schooling as he became the first local swimmer to win a medal at the elite meet in Kazan, Russia.

He clocked 50.96sec in the 100m butterfly to finish third behind defending champion Chad le Clos (50.56) and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh (50.87), earning himself a place in the record books in what will surely go down as a milestone moment in Singapore's sporting history.

His effort was also a new Asian record, lowering the mark of 51.00 set by Japan's Kohei Kawamoto in 2009.

Said Schooling, who was named 2014 Sportsman of the Year at the annual Singapore Sports Awards earlier this week: "I couldn't be happier to have won a medal on the eve of Singapore's 50th birthday, and would like to dedicate this win to everyone who has supported and believed in me.

PRIDE OF THE NATION

I couldn't be happier to have won a medal on the eve of Singapore's 50th birthday, and would like to dedicate this win to everyone who has supported and believed in me.

JOSEPH SCHOOLING, the new 100m butterfly bronze medallist at the world championships

"I came to the world championships with an intention of winning a medal in any of my three individual events.

"I came close in the 50m and i knew that today was my last chance.

"I am delighted with my individual performance at this World Championships and will continue to work hard towards Rio 2016."

Starting in lane one as the seventh-fastest qualifier, the 20-year-old was the quickest off the blocks and was in the lead as he made the turn 0.19sec ahead of second-placed le Clos.

But the South African, who won the 200m fly at the 2012 London Olympics, showed all of his fighting qualities in the next 50m to retain his title.

For Schooling, there was no room for despair though, as he savours a stunning week of achievements in the pool.

This was his second appearance in a world championship final race, a feat no local male swimmer besides Ang Peng Siong (fourth in the 50m free at the 1986 edition in Madrid) can lay claim to.

A swimmer's career is defined by the clock and Schooling's timings are proof that he is heading in the right direction and towards his ultimate goal of an Olympic medal.

He has gone faster each time he has dived into the pool during this biennial meet.

While he did not make the 200m fly final, he still improved from the heats into the semis. It was the same in the 50m fly where he eventually finished seventh - just 0.1sec outside a podium placing - and set an Asian record of 23.25.

Likewise in his pet event, the 100m fly, in which he bagged a silver at last year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games in a national record of 51.69. That mark has since been erased three times at the Kazan Arena - 51.65 in the heats, 51.40 in the semis and again in the finals.

With 12 months to go to the next Olympic Games in Rio, Schooling has provided concrete evidence of his undoubted talent and crucially, the silverware to prove that he will be a medal contender in Brazil.

No wonder Singapore national head coach Sergio Lopez gushed: "I'm very proud to see Joseph win this well-deserved medal.

"I am very happy for his parents and the people in Singapore that have supported him.

"This win today shows that we do have the talent to do well at a big stage and for Joseph, it also means that he has proven himself to be among the top swimmers in the world."

Meanwhile, his compatriot Quah Zheng Wen clocked 25.44 in the 50m backstroke heats to finish 20th overall while sister Ting Wen timed 26.51 in the 50m free and ranked 53rd.

Roanne Ho was 38th in the 50m breaststroke after a 32.20 swim.

The quartet of Danny Yeo, Amanda Lim, Quah Ting Wen and Zheng Wen clocked 3min 34.58sec to finish 13th in the 4x100m free mixed medley.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline 'FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE'. Print Edition | Subscribe