In the mixed zone in Tokyo he stood, swim cap in hand, heart rate fast, his timing too slow. In Rio 2016 he'd been the fastest in the 100m butterfly heats, here he was 44th. It wasn't a perfect ending - if indeed it is an end - but then this isn't a Disney movie. This is sport - rugged, competitive, unforgiving - and he made no excuses. He knows clocks don't lie.
Joseph Schooling leaned on the barricade and ducked no question. Rio felt many continents away. He said he lacked "feel" and called his swim "flat". Perhaps even he is bewildered by where speed has gone. He was fast once, wasn't he? It just feels like a second ago.