Olympics: 'Nobody is happy to lose, but I'm proud of Jo' - Phelps

The now viral photo of Schooling, a bespectacled lad of 13, posing beside the hulking Phelps shows how far the young swimmer has come. PHOTOS: SCHOOLING FAMILY, REUTERS
Joseph Schooling congratulated by Michael Phelps after winning the Rio 2016 Olympic Games men's 100m butterfly final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 12, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - At the end of 50.39 seconds that made history, Joseph Schooling slapped the water in elation, and turned to hug his idol, swimming legend Michael Phelps.

Chad le Clos of South Africa, also turned to pat Schooling's back and ruffle his hair.

Schooling, 21, beat three swimming greats to clinch Singapore's first gold medal and an Olympic record in the 100m butterfly final on Saturday (Aug 13) morning.

It was the culmination of years of hard work that saw the driven young swimmer chase his idol all the way to the podium in Rio de Janeiro.

Defending champion Phelps of the United States, five-time Olympic medallist Laszlo Cseh of Hungary and defending world champion le Clos all clocked 51.14sec to share the silver in a startling three-way tie.

The New York Times headline "Somebody (His Name's Joseph Schooling) Finally Beats Michael Phelps" is indicative of the big upset Schooling has achieved.

In winning his first Olympic medal, Schooling also denied Phelps a clean sweep of all the individual events he competed in at the 2016 Games.

But Phelps, already hailed the Greatest of All Times, looked relaxed and spoke encouragingly to Schooling after the medal presentation - where Schooling stood alone on the topmost podium while Phelps, le Clos and Cseh lined up in second place.

"Nobody is happy to lose, but I'm proud of Jo," Phelps said at a media conference after the race.

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Joseph Schooling made history with Singapore's first ever Olympic gold medal. The swimmer clocked 50.39s and broke an Olympic record in the 100m Men's Butterfly at Rio 2016. Back home, Singaporeans celebrated as he swam his way to victory.

"It's faster than I went four years ago to win, but Jo's tough," Phelps said. "Hats off to him."

The veteran, who has said this will be his last Games, seemed excited to see fresh talent in the sport.

"What he's able to achieve is up to him. I'm excited to see how much faster he goes. I think it'll be exciting to see somebody else break 50 seconds again. I watched him swim last summer at the world championships. Ball's in his court. As big as he wants to dream," he said.

The admiration was mutual.

Phelps has been Schooling's idol since he was a child, and in the rush of emotion post-race, one of the first things Schooling said was that it was an honour and privilege to race with the athletes alongside him in the pool.

"I'm really honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to race in the Olympic final alongside huge names like Michael, Chad, Laszlo, guys that have changed the face of this sport, guys that have won the most number of gold medals in Olympic history, a guy that will go down in our history books as the greatest of all time of any sport," he said.

The now viral photo of Schooling, a bespectacled lad of 13, posing beside the hulking Phelps shows how far the young swimmer has come.

Back then, watching Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, was a star-struck fanboy.

Four years on in London, 17-year-old Schooling made his Olympic debut.

Phelps comforted Schooling after their 200m butterfly heats as less than 10 minutes before the race, Schooling's equipment was deemed to not fit Olympic regulations, and the then 17-year-old clocked a poor timing.

Schooling said: "I was walking behind Phelps after my race when he looked at me and asked, 'what's wrong?'

"I told him what happened and he hugged me and said, 'you're only so young, you still have a long way to go. It's a learning experience so keep your head high and just keep moving on'."

Another four years, and the 21-year-old is now beating the legend.

In June this year, Schooling beat Phelps to win the 100m butterfly final at the Longhorn Elite Invite Meet in Austin, Texas.

Then won gold at the Olympic pool, leading the pack the entire race, and the only swimmer to clock under 51 seconds.

Perhaps he could do it because he simply relishes the competition.

When asked what Phelps said to him after the race, Schooling said Phelps told him 'Good job, that was a great race'.

He added: "I told him to go four more years and he said 'No way'. Hopefully he changes his mind. I like racing him."

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