Swimming: Joseph Schooling's fired up for busy 2017 schedule

Joseph Schooling, with his father Colin, putting at the 10th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club. Singapore's first Olympic champion helped raise more than $500,000 for the Singapore Swimming Association.
Joseph Schooling, with his father Colin, putting at the 10th hole at Tanah Merah Country Club. Singapore's first Olympic champion helped raise more than $500,000 for the Singapore Swimming Association.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Olympic champ to return to training for NCAA and world c'ships & SEA Games

Decked head to toe in full golf attire, Joseph Schooling cut a relaxed figure looking forward to his afternoon tee time at the Tanah Merah Country Club yesterday, but it soon became clear that swimming was never far from his mind.

The Olympic champion might be home for a short holiday but there were reminders aplenty that the break was only temporary.

Recalling a text message from his University of Texas coach Eddie Reese on Monday, Schooling said with a laugh: "His last sentence was 'I like you no matter what, except if you get fat'. That's Eddie's humour for you."

The serious business of racing was nothing to joke about though. The Rio Olympics are over and 2017 promises to be another big test for Schooling. He has the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships in Indiana in March, the Fina World Championships in Budapest in July and the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur a month later.

The 21-year-old was relishing returning to the grind of training though when he leaves for the United States on Friday. He said: "Eddie said I just need to get back into the pool. My body shape is such that I get in shape really fast but I also lose it really fast."

The NCAA will be his first major meet after the Olympics, and he has one goal: to maintain his unbeaten record of winning night races.

"I've seen my competition for the NCAAs and I don't want to lose - I hate losing," he noted. "I don't plan on losing a race at night at the NCAAs in the finals, and in order to do that I have to get back to work.

"It's crunch time, my holiday's over. I have to get back to the pool and I'm ready; I'm motivated and fired up."

This competitive fire has led to Olympic gold, though the 15-handicapper admitted that it was a temperament ill-suited for the fairways. He said: "For swimming, if I want to go faster, I get angrier, and I swim harder and I go faster. But for golf if I swing harder, the ball's not going anywhere.

"So it's definitely hard to find a balance knowing that my character is fiery, but for golf you have to stay calm, cool and collected - three things that I don't do well."

He certainly did his part though in helping the Singapore Swimming Association to collect $525,100 during yesterday's fund-raiser, which concluded with a celebratory dinner attended by President Tony Tan Keng Yam as the guest of honour.

The money will go towards supporting elite athletes' post-swimming careers, long-term athlete and professional staff development, said SSA president Lee Kok Choy.

For his gold medal, Schooling is set to receive $1 million at tomorrow's Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme appreciation dinner.

He will give 20 per cent of that amount to the SSA for its training and development schemes, as stipulated by the Singapore National Olympic Council.

He said: "I think giving back my share to help is important and that's fine with me, but I hope to see some improvement and results from it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Jo's fired up for busy 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe