Asian Games: Joseph Schooling hungry to show he's back to winning ways, sets 2024 deadline to quit swimming

Joseph Schooling is seeking to prove to himself that he is "back on track" following an abysmal two years after his historic achievement in Rio. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Joseph Schooling satisfied his own hunger for Olympic gold when he triumphed in the 100m butterfly final in Rio de Janeiro two years ago.

That drive remains as insatiable as he looks to return to winning ways at the Asian Games but the 23-year-old has also given himself six years before calling it quits.

The deadline is the first time he has spoken of his post-swimming life. Speaking the Singapore and international media on Saturday (Aug 18) after a training session at the Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Centre, he said: "Rio changed my life, but I like to live in the present… I want to swim until 2024, I don't think I want to swim past 2024 right now."

That would give him two further shots at Olympic glory, Tokyo in two years and Paris 2024.

"For sure (it'll be harder to win the 100m fly in Tokyo), you always want to prepare yourself for the worst, or hardest… I train to be in the worst possible scenario, you train as hard as you can so you can be at your fittest."

He is decidedly fitter these days and has shed 4kg and said he was "back on track" after a sharp dip in performances since Rio.

Schooling, who won a gold (100m fly), silver (50m fly) and bronze (200m fly) at the 2014 Incheon Asiad, will swim his first event - the 50m freestyle - here on Tuesday.

He told The Sunday Times earlier: "I don't really care about outside pressure, the only pressure I care about is the pressure I put on myself. I've been feeling good in practice. We'll see what happens."

National training centre head coach Gary Tan, who leads the swim team of 25, feels Schooling has done a good job of shutting out criticism, adding: "There are elevated expectations for him, but the one thing going for him is he's quietly working hard and keeping swimming as his top priority.

"His head is in the right place."

He was optimistic of the men's relay teams, whom he is expecting to "raise the bar" despite being underdogs. He said: "If they click right and get their formula right, I hope we can give (China and Japan) a run for their money."

The Republic won the men's 4x200m free bronze in 2014, aided by the disqualification of third-placed South Korea after Park Tae-hwan failed a drug test. But it is the shorter relays, 4x100m free and 4x100m medley, where Singapore's chances are strongest.

At last year's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, led by Schooling, Singapore won both in national and meet records of 3min 17.85sec and 3:37.46. This is comfortably inside the bronze-medal times of Hong Kong (3:22.45) and Uzbekistan (3:43.54) at the 2014 Asiad.

Schooling said of his younger team-mates: "They're not afraid to race. It's nice to see the fighting spirit, that's why I'm so excited for these relays. Everyone's got their heads screwed on right and we'd be very dangerous if that clicks."

The absence of two-time Asian Games champion Tao Li, who won a silver (50m fly) and bronze (100m fly) four years ago, has left a hole in the women's team but Tan is optimistic others are ready to step up.

He said: "The girls are swimming well and I'm quietly confident of personal bests for certain events."

Five-time 50m free SEA Games champion Amanda Lim matched her personal best of 25.38sec, joint-11th in Asia this year, at the national championships in June. Team-mate Roanne Ho's 31.31 in the 50m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games in April puts her sixth in Asia this season.

The week-long competition in Indonesia will also be an important gauge of progress ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Of Singapore's 13 teen swimmers, four - Zachary Tan, Cherlyn Yeoh, Darren Chua and Jonathan Tan - are making their major Games debut here.

Coach Tan said: "It's good to see where they are comparatively, with the seniors. There's a good mix of youth and seasoned campaigners, and it's about how we integrate the two in preparation for bigger things as well, leading up to Tokyo."

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