Jo falls short in 50m butterfly

Joseph Schooling at the start of his 50m butterfly heat at the Fina World Championships in Gwangju yesterday. He clocked 23.73 seconds to finish seventh in his heat and 20th overall.
Joseph Schooling at the start of his 50m butterfly heat at the Fina World Championships in Gwangju yesterday. He clocked 23.73 seconds to finish seventh in his heat and 20th overall.PHOTO: SIMONE CASTROVILLARI/SSA

Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling got off to a disappointing start at the Fina World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, yesterday as he missed out on the semi-finals of the men's 50m butterfly.

The 24-year-old clocked 23.73 seconds to finish seventh in his heat and 20th overall. Caeleb Dressel of the United States and Ukraine's Andrii Govorov led the top-16 field with 22.84sec.

It was a far cry from Schooling's performance at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, two years ago when he smashed the national record twice - 23.05sec in the heats and 22.93sec (also an Asian record) in the semi-final. He finished fifth in the final in 22.95sec.

"I was happy with parts of my execution, but have also identified areas I need to work on," said Schooling, who won the 100m butterfly gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics in a Games record of 50.39sec.

"There were some fast times in the pool today and it sets the stage for the world championships. Everyone will have to lift his game to make the most out of his races at this meet."

Schooling did have something to cheer about when he teamed up with Quah Zheng Wen, Jonathan Tan and Darren Chua to set a national record of 3min 16.66sec in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay heats. They finished 18th overall and did not make the final.

The previous mark of 3:17.22 was set by Schooling, Quah, Chua and Darren Lim at last year's Asian Games.

Schooling said: "We spur each other on and we must continue to tap this momentum for the upcoming relays and our individual races."

He will be swimming in his pet event, the 100m butterfly, on Friday (heats and semi-finals) and likely on Saturday (final) when he will attempt to improve on his joint-bronze showing (50.83sec) two years ago.

The women's 4x100m free team comprising sisters Quah Ting Wen and Jing Wen, Cherlyn Yeoh and Christie Chue also rewrote the national record of 3:44.21 with their 3:43.11. They finished 17th overall and also did not qualify for the final.

None of Singapore's swimmers made it to the semi-finals or finals yesterday.

National head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer said: "It was a fairly rough morning today, most of the swimmers were in good condition, and we saw many of the young ones exposed to the world stage today.

"There were some very solid performances today, the two relays were national records on a bigger stage, but it was not easy.

"It's challenging, but that's what these meets are about. We have to get used to this pressure, this environment, the highest standard there is.

"It is a good reality check for us as a nation. We still have to close the gap even more."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2019, with the headline 'Jo falls short in 50m butterfly'. Print Edition | Subscribe