SINGAPORE - Joseph Schooling's coaches believe he is in better shape now than before the 2017 World Championships, but also cut short his outing at the Neo Garden 15th Singapore National Swimming Championships (SNSC) to ensure he is in peak condition ahead of next month's world meet.
The 24-year-old, representing Chinese Swimming Club, posted 54.63seconds to finish sixth overall in the 100m butterfly heats on Friday (June 21) but did not compete in the final the same day. He was also pencilled in for the 50m freestyle on Saturday, but will not compete.
National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan said the decision to withdraw from the SNSC was a collective one between Schooling and the coaching staff, and that the Olympic 100m fly champion was neither sick nor injured.
"We are trying to make sure (Schooling) is in a good frame of mind going into the world championships and we want him to be ready to race there," added Tan.
Stephan Widmer, the national head coach and performance director, said: "This part of the meet was for him to expose himself to a lot of racing - there was always the (possibility) of potentially having to say, 'With the Worlds coming up and the recovery process, we maybe have to pull the plug' and that's what happened.
"He did a lot of tough racing and it wasn't about the times; it was about putting himself out there and pushing the body again and again and it seems like it just got to that fine line.
"We thought it was better to stop that now and get him to recover over the next few days before we resume the training and taper towards the world championships."
Schooling won the 100m butterfly title in 52 seconds at the Japan Open earlier this month, and Widmer said of that: "He was under a heavy (training) load and fatigued, I thought it was a really good swim but how he did it was impressive.
"The skills, stroke rate, pace, rhythm and so on are still in the finetuning process, but that's where he has applied himself really well."
Tan said the coaches are optimistic about the world championships, adding: "I would say he has definitely been in better shape (since the 2017 edition), he has been working a lot harder across this period of time.
"We're going into the Worlds understanding this swimmer better and making sure that we get it a bit better towards the Olympic Games."
Schooling won bronze in the 100m fly at the 2015 and 2017 world championships, and of his medal chances next month, Widmer would only say: "He will have to put it together, everyone else has to put it together, there're so many factors there. He's physically in a better shape than he has been.
"Now it's about the finetuning of his freshness, maintaining as much fitness as possible, then it's about the learning again - getting it as right as possible and learning as much for next year (at the Olympics)."
The third day of the SNSC saw Randall Neo set the Under-14 national record in the 100m butterfly, clocking 56.73sec to lower Dylan Koo's 2013 time of 57.15sec.