Schooling can upset the odds

He has youth and momentum on his side as he bids to shine in Kazan in run-up to Rio Games

On paper, Singapore swim king Joseph Schooling faces an uphill task to clinch a medal at the Fina World Championships this week in Kazan, Russia.

His best times this year in the three individual events which he is competing in - the 50m (23.49sec), 100m (52.13sec) and 200m butterfly (1min 55.73sec) - would place him 16th, 23rd and 12th in the world respectively.

To reach the final of an event, Schooling needs to first finish among the top 16 in the preliminary round. He must then be in the top eight in the semi-finals.

The eighth-fastest times this year in the 50m, 100m and 200m fly are 23.37, 51.71, and 1:55.23.

Joseph Schooling handled the pressure well at the recent SEA Games when he made home fans happy with a haul of nine gold medals. -- ST FILE PHOTO

The odds seem stacked against Schooling but the butterfly specialist is still setting his sights on winning a medal at the biennial meet.


I just like winning and seeing my name first on the scoreboard. That feeling motivates me. I don't care too much about what others expect me to do.

JOSEPH SCHOOLING on his chances at the Fina World Championships

It would be a statement of intent - especially with the Rio de Janeiro Olympics just a year away.

Said Schooling, who is part of the Republic's 11-strong swim team at the championships: "My goal is to win a medal at the world championships. It is a prelude to the Olympics, and will be a good benchmark for next year.

"Preparations have gone well... I feel confident and stronger than at the SEA Games."

Singapore coach Sergio Lopez also tips his protege to do well.

He said: "He didn't prepare 100 per cent for the SEA Games but he didn't have to. You can't be 100 per cent at every single meet.

"I think Joseph has a plan to be 100 per cent here and, in my opinion, he has a good shot (of winning a medal)."

Given Schooling's progress since the last world championships in 2013, when he reached the 200m fly semi-finals, it will be foolish to rule him out of medal contention.

Physically, he has blossomed into a hulking 1.84m, 85kg competitor since 2013, thanks to increased weight training.

He also has time on his side.

At 20, Schooling is among the youngest swimmers in the field, which means he could yet see a significant drop in timings.

In fact, swimming news website Swim Swam has tipped Schooling to finish third in the 100m fly because of his raw potential.

Crucially, he has also made significant strides in the mental game.

The University of Texas student has had to recover from his fair share of setbacks such as a swim-cap-and-goggles bungle at the 2012 Olympics.

At last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, overly-tight swim shorts also caused him to cramp up and finish last in the 200m fly final.

However, those mishaps have only fuelled him to greater heights as he collected medal after medal in the past 12 months.

In Glasgow, he bounced back from the 200m fly disappointment to win Singapore's first swimming medal at the Games, finishing second to world champion Chad le Clos in the 100m fly.

A month later, Schooling ended Singapore's 32-year wait for a men's swimming gold at the Asian Games when he won the 100m fly - on his Asiad debut, no less.

In March's National Collegiate Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships in the United States, he won three titles as a freshman. The feat earned him Big 12 Men's Newcomer of the Year.

Then came June's SEA Games, an event in which he knew all eyes would be on him. Yet, he boldly set the bar high, declaring his intentions to win all his nine events.

He did so with aplomb, smashing four individual national records.

These included Ang Peng Siong's 50m freestyle mark that had stood since 1982 - the longest-existing national record.

Now, at the Kazan Arena Stadium, another shot at history beckons for him, as he seeks to be Singapore's first medallist at the world championships.

The swimmer certainly sounds up for it: "I just like winning and seeing my name first on the scoreboard. That feeling motivates me.

"I don't care too much about what others expect me to do.

"It's all about what I expect of myself. And I'm confident."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'SCHOOLING CAN UPSET THE ODDS'. Print Edition | Subscribe