Schooling on the next lap

Far left: Colin Schooling (centre), father of Singapore swimmer Joseph, receiving the ST Athlete of the Month trophy from Straits Times sports editor Marc Lim. With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.
ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN, PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE
Far left: Colin Schooling (centre), father of Singapore swimmer Joseph, receiving the ST Athlete of the Month trophy from Straits Times sports editor Marc Lim. With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.
Far left: Colin Schooling (centre), father of Singapore swimmer Joseph, receiving the ST Athlete of the Month trophy from Straits Times sports editor Marc Lim. With them is Celine Tan, marketing manager of F&N.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN, PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Swimmer moves on from bronze feat in Kazan to focus on a podium finish in Rio

Last month, Joseph Schooling served notice to the world of his burgeoning talent when he won a bronze medal - Singapore's first-ever - at the Fina World Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia.

Yet, while the nation is still marvelling at his feat, the University of Texas student has quietly moved on, diving straight back into the grind of training six days a week.

He said: "I think it's a good achievement but it's just a stepping stone to my ultimate goal.

"I don't think about it at all now because it's in the past. All it does is give me confidence."

At the Kazan Arena, the 20-year-old swam 50.96 seconds in the 100m butterfly final to finish third behind South Africa's Chad le Clos (50.56) and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh (50.87). In the process, he also clocked the fifth-fastest time managed in a textile suit.

Schooling's historic feat saw him clinch The Straits Times' Star of the Month award for August.

The award is an extension of ST's Athlete of the Year accolade, launched in 2008. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.

Said ST sports editor Marc Lim: "Choosing August's winner was a no-brainer.

"Clinching the nation's first medal at the swimming World Championships was not just an achievement for the month but also arguably one of Singapore's greatest sporting achievements to date."

The local sporting community concurs.

In a Sunday Times ranking of the Republic's 10 greatest sporting feats - polled from 45 current and former athletes, coaches, officials and sports journalists - Schooling's Kazan feat came in second, only behind weightlifter Tan Howe Liang's first Olympic medal for Singapore in 1960.

For Schooling, his ultimate dream remains an Olympic medal too.

However, history stands in his way. No Asian man has ever finished in the top three of his pet event, the 100m fly, since it was first held at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Then, there is the shadow of the indomitable Michael Phelps, in what is already a highly competitive field.

Since coming out of retirement last April, the 18-time Olympic champion has gone from strength to strength.

At the US National meet, held concurrently with the World Championships, the 30-year-old American won the 100m and 200m fly, as well as the 200m individual medley.

More significantly, his winning times in San Antonio were all better than the winning times in Kazan. For the 100m fly for instance, he clocked 50.45 seconds.

USA Swimming banned the American from competing in Kazan as part of his punishment for his arrest for drink-driving last year.

But Schooling is unperturbed. For one thing, he knows he has youth on his side. Phelps is 30, le Clos is 23 while Cseh is 29.

He said: "These guys are there (physically), but I'm not in my prime yet, and I know I still have loads of room to improve.

"I'm glad to be in the mix and I just need to focus on improving myself and do what I can to catch up.

"I'm not worried about the other guys."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Schooling on the next lap'. Print Edition | Subscribe