Some athletes use their first race at major meets to get their nerves out of the way. Joseph Schooling used his yesterday to show his intent.
The 20-year-old Singapore swimmer clocked 23.27 seconds in the men's 50m butterfly to qualify for the final at the Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia.
He set a new Asian record, improving on the 23.37 set by China's Yu Hexin in April. It was also the second time in a day that Schooling had lowered the national mark. He timed 23.40 in the heats, improving on the 23.43 set at the Commonwealth Games last year.
Schooling, who qualified seventh for the final, said shortly after his stellar start in Kazan: "My target for the world championships was to (win) medals in my events and (this) brings me one step closer to my goal."
Added the University of Texas undergraduate, the only Asian to make the final: "I started off well in the heats, pushed myself in the semis and I'm looking forward to the final. It's going to be an exciting race with the world's best swimmers and a great test of my form."
The feat also marks the first time that a Singaporean man had made the final at a swimming world championships since 1986, when Ang Peng Siong finished fourth in the 50m freestyle event in Madrid.
France's Florent Manadou was the fastest qualifier, clocking 22.84. Brazil's Nicholas Santos (23.05) and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh (23.06) were the second and third fastest qualifiers respectively. The final will take place tonight at around 11.15pm.
Meanwhile, China's Sun Yang began his quest for glory in style, clocking 3:42.58 to win the men's 400m freestyle. Britain's James Guy came in second (3:43.75) while Canadian Ryan Cochrane was third (3:44.59).
The Chinese long-distance freestyle specialist is also defending his titles over 800m and 1,500m.
In the women's 100m butterfly event, Sweden's Sarah Sjoestroem set a world record with a time of 55.74 in the semi-final, breaking the previous record of 55.98 set by American Dana Vollmer at the 2012 London Olympics.
There were big shocks in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay event, when the United States failed to make the cut for the final. It marked the first time that the Americans, who were joint 11th in qualifying, had failed to reach the final of this event at a world championships. They had been on the podium at all previous editions, except the 2001 edition in Fukuoka.
Australia, Britain and Germany also failed to make the final, which France won in 3:10.74.