RIO DE JANEIRO - Swimming alongside some of the best freestyle specialists in history, Singapore's Joseph Schooling fell short of a place in Singapore sporting history.
The 21-year-old clocked 48.7 seconds to finish eighth in his 100 metre freestyle semi-final, and 16th overall on Tuesday night (Brazil time) at the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Only the top eight swimmers progress to the final, which will be held on Wednesday night in Rio. China's 100m free world champion Ning Zetao was the biggest casualty to miss out on a place in the last eight.
Schooling was bidding to be the first Singaporean male to make an Olympics swimming final. Butterfly specialist Tao Li was the first Singaporean to make an Olympics final when she finished fifth at the 2008 Games.
Competing in Lane 3, Schooling was seventh at the turn and slowed further towards the finish.
The 21-year-old, a student at the University of Texas in Austin, smashed his own national record in the heats, clocking 48.27sec to qualify sixth fastest for the semi-finals.
He said of the 100m free: "You just get nerves out, I think that's the biggest thing. I swam a prelim swim, I swam a night swim. I know what the atmosphere is like, I know how I need to feel, how I need to adjust my body. There's a lot of things I learnt today.
"I think I'm off to a good start. I didn't expect to make the top 16 but I did it. I'm still happy it's still a best time."
Schooling will now turn his focus to the 100m butterfly, his pet event, on Thursday (1.16am Friday, Singapore time). He won a historic bronze at the world championships last year in this event and is widely expected to at least make the final at the Olympics.
He said: "I think my fly is looking smooth. I did a 100 fly a few days before I took off and I was 51.5 seconds. With an atmosphere like this and Michael (Phelps) and all beside me, I think I'll be a lot faster."