Mixed fortunes for Schooling

Joseph Schooling faces a litmus test today, when he races in the 100-yard butterfly at the Big 12 meet. A strong performance will boost his confidence ahead of the March 21-24 National Collegiate Athletic Association meet, his final NCAA meet before
Joseph Schooling faces a litmus test today, when he races in the 100-yard butterfly at the Big 12 meet. A strong performance will boost his confidence ahead of the March 21-24 National Collegiate Athletic Association meet, his final NCAA meet before he graduates this year.

S'porean third in his freestyle title defence but ends day with gold medal in relay

The second day of the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships began on a low note yesterday morning (Singapore time) for Joseph Schooling. He failed to retain his 50-yard freestyle title, which he won in record time last year.

But the day ended positively for the Singaporean, as he helped his University of Texas (UT) team to a comfortable victory in the men's 400-yard medley relay.

It was Schooling's second gold of the four-day competition at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Centre in Austin after UT claimed the 200-yard medley relay on Thursday.

The Olympic 100m butterfly champion, 22, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The UT senior clocked 19.36sec in the 50-yard free, behind team-mates Tate Jackson (18.95) and Brett Ringgold (19.07) in the final.

Schooling was first to turn in the two-lap race at 9.17, but was overtaken in the return leg by the duo.

He won the event last year with a conference and meet record of 18.76 and then claimed bronze in the same event at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Swimming and Diving Championship last March.

In the medley relay yesterday, Schooling clocked 45.09 in the fly leg, as the Longhorns cruised to victory in 3min 5.71sec. West Virginia University (3:09.78) and Texas Christian University (3:17.02) were second and third respectively.

UT's time cleared the "A" qualifying mark of 3:07.46 for the NCAA meet next month in Minneapolis, but fell short of the US Open and NCAA Division I record of 2:59.22 that the Longhorns quartet of John Shebat, Will Licon, Schooling and Jack Conger set at the NCAA championship last year.

Of the four, only Schooling swam in the relay yesterday as Licon and Conger have graduated, and Shebat was not fielded for this race.

Schooling faces a litmus test today, when he races in the 100-yard fly.

The butterfly specialist won both the 100-and 200-yard fly titles at the NCAA meet in 2015 and 2016, but failed to win either race last year. He had admitted to a lack of motivation after his triumph at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He owns the season's fastest time of 44.78sec in the 100-yard fly, which he clocked at the Texas Invitational in December, and won the event at last year's Big 12 meet in 44.06.

A strong performance will be a boost for his confidence ahead of the March 21-24 NCAA championship, Schooling's final NCAA meet before he graduates this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2018, with the headline 'Mixed fortunes for Schooling'. Print Edition | Subscribe