Swimming: World Championships setback will spur me to train harder, says Joseph Schooling

 Joseph Schooling posing with his bronze medal in the men's 100m butterfly event at the Fina World Championships.
Joseph Schooling posing with his bronze medal in the men's 100m butterfly event at the Fina World Championships.PHOTO: REUTERS

BUDAPEST - Perspective is everything in life. When Joseph Schooling won bronze at the swimming World Championships in 2015, it was seen as a seminal moment in Singapore sport. Two years later, the same colour of metal carries far less gloss.

The benchmarks used to gauge success for the 22-year-old have changed drastically, ever since last year's historic Olympic gold.

He acknowledged this yesterday, candidly describing his podium finish in Saturday's 100m butterfly final as "a setback", but stressed it was merely a blip in the journey towards the Tokyo 2020 Games.

He added: "I went into this meet having high expectations (targeting wins in the 50m fly, which he finished fifth, and the 100m fly).

"It's definitely good to understand this position I'm in. Now I know how it feels and I don't ever want feel it again."

What is required to prevent a repeat of such a one-sided result - the winner Caeleb Dressel was almost a second faster than Schooling and the Singaporean's time was 0.44sec off his personal best - is a fresh attitude.

Schooling said: "Every day in practice, I'll definitely go in with a different mindset. My whole approach to racing and training now is completely different. It's more similar to before Rio, when I was chasing someone instead of being chased.

"So I definitely have more motivation and this will spur me on to train harder and become a better swimmer."

It will be music to his coach's ears. Eddie Reese, the 76-year-old head coach at the University of Texas, where Schooling studies and trains, had repeatedly warned his charge about complacency but his advice was ignored.

He said: "I don't want miracles from Jo. I don't want him training so hard that he bleeds every day. Just do what I ask.

"Notice the verb ask. I don't tell them what to do. They're all bigger and stronger than I am. I just ask and for the most part, they do."

Schooling gave a rueful chuckle when informed about Reese's comments.

He said: "Eddie's been warning me about this exact moment after the Olympics. You win by so much, you're that far ahead of everyone, you take your mind off it and before you know it, a bunch of people are passing you."

The 20-year-old American Dressel, who has been the meet's breakout star with his six golds - he is due to compete in the men's 4x100m medley late Sunday night - and established himself as the leading 100m butterfly swimmer with his 49.86sec effort, is one obvious threat.

He said: "It's always fun racing Jo. He always brings his 'A' game and I'm looking forward to the next couple of years."

There is also 17-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak. His time of 50.62sec en route to a silver in the 100m fly is the eighth-fastest in history.

Both are younger than Schooling and the Singaporean acknowledged the need to improve his physical condition.

He said: "I don't want to single out one specific area (that needs work).

"I need to be better overall. I need to get back in shape, in racing condition and work hard across the board."

Much of the talk surrounding Schooling's campaign in Budapest was not just on winning another historic gold, but also his bid to lower Michael Phelps' 49.82sec world record, which has stood since 2009.

Reese still believes his charge can still take a crack at it.

"Jo has the ability to beat Phelps' record," he said. "Caeleb? We can't control Caeleb. He's a big kid, real, real strong."

In Budapest, besides the butterfly events, Schooling also competed in the 100m freestyle. Even though he failed in his quest to reach the semi-finals, he reiterated his desire to expand his repertoire and race in different strokes instead of only the fly. He had previously spoken of adding the 200m individual medley to his list for the 2020 Olympics.

He said: "The fly and free are kind of the same. My training in fly translate into me racing the free. They're both power events and they go hand in hand. Right now, I'm not thinking too much about Tokyo."

He returns to Singapore on Tuesday to prepare for next month's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and has the Commonwealth Games in Australia and Asian Games in Indonesia scheduled for next year.

Beyond that, there is another shot at adding a world title to his resume at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

For Schooling, 24 hours removed from the 100m fly final, it felt like a long wait for the next edition, but he noted that "everything's relative and how you frame it and I choose to frame it positively right now".

He added: "It feel likes the end of the world but it's not."

jonwong@sph.com.sg