Swimming: Schooling belongs on world stage, says national coach Lopez

National coach Sergio Lopez believes Schooling has already shown that he belongs on the world stage.
National coach Sergio Lopez believes Schooling has already shown that he belongs on the world stage.PHOTO: NEW PAPER FILE

SINGAPORE - Swimmer Joseph Schooling may have finished only seventh in Monday's 50m butterfly final of the Fina World Championships, but national coach Sergio Lopez believes his charge has already shown that he belongs on the world stage.

Having qualified for the championship race for the first time, the 20-year-old Singaporean posted a time of 23.25sec and finished just 0.1sec behind the bronze-medallist pair of Laszlo Cseh and Konrad Czerniak, both men clocking 23.15.

France's Florent Manaudou won the event in 22.97, with Brazil's Nicholas Santos second in 23.09.

Not only was Schooling's time a new personal best and a new Asian record, but he had also swam faster in each of his three races (23.40 in the heats and 23.27 in the semi-finals).

This showed that the University of Texas undergraduate was able to handle the pressure of a major competition and thriving despite the weight of expectations on him, said Lopez in a conference call on Tuesday.

Said the Spaniard: "He's measuring up pretty well against the world's best. He's definitely up there with everyone else. He missed out on a medal by just one-tenths of a second.

"He was upset after his race at not getting a medal but very mature in the way he reacted and realised how close he was . He's a fighter and won't give up and will learn from this experience."

Schooling is seeking his second final appearance after advancing to the semi-finals of the 200m fly, which will be held later tonight (scheduled start is just past midnight Singapore time) at the Kazan Arena in Russia.

He clocked 1min 56.85sec in his morning heats on Tuesday to finish 13th overall. His other race will be the 100m fly - which he won at last year's Asian Games - on Friday.

Lopez was feeling confident of a solid performance in Schooling's pet event. He said: "Based on last two swims in the 50m and 200m, I think his 100m fly is going to be very good. But even if he doesn't get a medal at this meet or make another final, I'm not really worried.

"We still have 12 months to go to the Olympics next year and we will assess what needs to be done and to get Joseph in the best condition possible for Rio."

jonwong@sph.com.sg