Swimming: Joseph Schooling promises to learn from NCAA lessons

He is driven by failure to win individual gold and aims to surprise during world c'ships

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling competing at the NCAA swimming championships. He returned to training yesterday - four days ahead of schedule.
Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling competing at the NCAA swimming championships. He returned to training yesterday - four days ahead of schedule. PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

Having claimed their third straight NCAA Championships overall title last week, the University of Texas men's swim team were given a week-long break and will resume training on Monday. Except for one Longhorns member.

Joseph Schooling, who won four relay golds but failed to retain his 100- and 200-yard butterfly titles, cut short his layoff by four days and was back in the water yesterday.

Such sacrifices are necessary as the Olympic 100m butterfly champion, who was sick during the March 22-25 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swimming championships and finished without an individual gold, is determined to produce a better showing at July's Fina World Championships.

Speaking to Singapore media over Skype yesterday, the 21-year-old said his NCAA outing was a wake-up call.

He added: "Honestly I needed something like this - I needed to be whooped in something for me to take it seriously again."

"I think I was definitely a bit too relaxed. I took a lot of things for granted and now that I've seen what happened, there's going to be no more of that. That's unacceptable.

"I'm getting back (in the pool) earlier to get a head start and catch up on my preparation. I definitely have space to work on my training and be where I need to be at (the) worlds."

He is planning to swim at least four individual events at the July 14-30 world championships in Budapest - the 50m, 100m and 200m fly, and 100m freestyle.

He has made no secret of his target of breaking the 100m fly world record (49.82sec) at the world event, and stressed that his goal remains the same. His winning time of 50.39sec in Rio de Janeiro was an Olympic record and the third-fastest time in history.

He added: "I definitely want to put the 200m fly back in. I think I haven't improved a lot in that event, or as much as I wanted to over the years.

"But I think this year we could have a solid 200m fly; I think it'll surprise a lot of people."

His former coach Sergio Lopez, who mentored Schooling during their time together at the Bolles School in Florida, told The Straits Times yesterday: "He's the Olympic champion so he has to make sure that he's on top. If he's not the first (in the 100m fly), he has to be in the top three but now he has a target on his back.

"The 50m fly will be a different event because you have some very big strong guys swimming in that who are not as good in the 100m fly.

"For the 200m fly, he's always been a good 200m fly swimmer and if he puts his mind to it, he will swim well. But it will be disrespectful of me to put targets or times since I don't coach him any more."

Apart from starting training earlier, Schooling has been lifting more weights than last year and feels stronger.

He will undergo about three months of "hard training" until the end of June and attend a training camp in Croatia in July, although he does not know which meets he will compete in yet.

He will return to Singapore for three days in May and will accompany mixed martial arts star Angela Lee to the cage for her One Championship atomweight title fight but played down suggestions it would be disruptive to his training schedule.

Schooling did not mince his words about his desire to bounce back in Hungary.

"Being sick doesn't take me off the fact that I didn't win my pet events... I walked in there and thought an Olympic champion could just stroll in and win but truth of the matter is, if you don't put in the work, it's going to show," he said. "Right now I'm more motivated to get back to training because I don't ever want to feel like that again.

"I don't want to get beaten like I did this past weekend, so I'm back and I'm ready to start fighting again."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline Swimming: Joseph Schooling promises to learn from NCAA lessons. Subscribe