Fina Swimming World Cup 2018

It's good to be back home

Joseph Schooling swimming the backstroke leg in the mixed 4x50m medley relay of the Fina World Cup Singapore leg yesterday. He set a national short-course record with his time of 24.08sec.
Joseph Schooling swimming the backstroke leg in the mixed 4x50m medley relay of the Fina World Cup Singapore leg yesterday. He set a national short-course record with his time of 24.08sec. ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Schooling combined with Roanne Ho, Amanda Lim (in pool) and Teong Tzen Wei (not pictured) to win the medley relay silver in 1min 42.21sec, behind Australia in 1:39.69.
Schooling combined with Roanne Ho, Amanda Lim (in pool) and Teong Tzen Wei (not pictured) to win the medley relay silver in 1min 42.21sec, behind Australia in 1:39.69.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Surprise backstroke mark for Schooling in mixed medley relay as Singapore win silver

He had already thrilled the near-capacity crowd at the OCBC Aquatic Centre earlier in the day, setting two national short-course records in the heats and final of the 50m butterfly in the Singapore leg of the Fina World Cup.

But Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling still gave the 3,000 spectators a grandstand finish when he swam not his preferred butterfly stroke but the backstroke in the first leg of the mixed 4x50m medley relay, the last event of this year's World Cup series.

His "hidden talent" turned out to be a silver lining too - he clocked 24.08 seconds to set a national backstroke (short-course) record, eclipsing Quah Zheng Wen's previous mark of 24.56sec set in 2014.

The Singapore team of Schooling, Roanne Ho, Teong Tzen Wei and Amanda Lim went on to claim the silver in 1min 42.21sec, behind Australia's (Minna Atherton, Matthew Wilson, Emily Seebohm and Kyle Chalmers) winning time of 1:39.69.

Schooling had also claimed the 50m fly bronze, setting the national record in the heats (22.76sec) before lowering it in the final (22.40sec).

The gold went to Russian Vladimir Morozov (22.17sec). Australian Michael Andrew (22.32sec) was second.

As for Singapore's medley medal, Schooling acknowledged that his background in the 200m individual medley had helped.

UNCHARTED WATERS

Zheng Wen's a better backstroker and... he would probably beat that. But a national backstroke record, I don't know what to say other than it's awesome. It's a new position and I'm enjoying it.

JOSEPH SCHOOLING, national swimmer, is happy to break records in any stroke.

He added: "(National Training Centre head coach) Gary (Tan) asked me if I could do the backstroke. I said if it's 50m and short-course, I'm there.

"Short-course sprints are all about underwater (work). I knew my swim wasn't as good as my underwater, so my underwater carried me in that race and I'm happy we won a medal for Singapore.

"Zheng's (Quah Zheng Wen) a better backstroker than me. If he came back from the States and raced that, he would probably beat that. But a national record in backstroke, I don't know what to say other than it's awesome. It's a new position and I'm enjoying it."

On Wednesday, he will head back to the United States to complete his undergraduate studies with the University of Texas at Austin next month, before returning to Singapore in February to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Two other world-class swimmers have also set their sights on Olympic glory after dominating this year's World Cup series.

Morozov won four events across three days here and was crowned the Asian cluster winner and overall men's champion, picking up cheques of US$50,000 ($68,600) and US$150,000 respectively.

The 26-year-old, who has just one individual medal at a long-course World Championships where he was second in the 50m free in 2013, said: "The plan was to hold on in the long-course, and try to go for the world records in the short-course. It was a good plan because I managed to break the world record (in the 100m IM) and did personal bests.

"I have always been better in the short-course than long-course because I've been training short-course my whole life.

"But I have been setting best times in long-course as well and it's a challenge I want to master."

The women's competition proved to be a closer-fought affair. Hungary's Katinka Hosszu won the Asian cluster and US$50,000 in prize money but it was Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom who was the overall women's champion.

After picking up her trophy and US$150,000 cheque, the 25-year-old who won five events in Singapore - including the 100m fly in 55.73sec and 100m free in 51.13sec last night - said she will most likely not be able to make it three overall titles in a row next year.

She added: "This year was very tight in terms of points and it became very exciting for everyone and I'm very happy to win again.

"Next year will be all about preparing for the Olympics. I may swim in a few races but not travel like I have in these two years because I would miss too many long-course training and gym sessions. The Olympics are definitely more important."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 18, 2018, with the headline 'It's good to be back home'. Print Edition | Subscribe