Swimming: My attitude's changed 180 degrees, says Schooling as he gears up for NCAA meet

Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling said, "The biggest thing is to go into the meet with a chip on the shoulder; last year I was on top of the world, I was an Olympic champion and a new star, and I took things for granted." PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
(From left) Merliza Lim (Crowd PR director); Joseph Schooling's mother May; Rose Tan (founder of Crowd PR) and his father Colin. The family has appointed Tan as a consultant to help Joseph with his career, and Crowd to handle his media relations and social media. ST PHOTO: LIM SAY HENG

SINGAPORE - Joseph Schooling has a chip on his shoulder. And the swimmer is counting on it to spur him to success at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in March.

The Singaporean, who was dethroned in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly races last year, told The Straits Times earlier this week: "The biggest thing is to go into the meet with a chip on the shoulder; last year I was on top of the world, I was an Olympic champion and a new star, and I took things for granted.

"You need that killer instinct and to be mean when you race, and I couldn't turn that on last year."

Asked if he was confident of wresting his individual titles back next month, he mused: "With the work I did, I set myself up better than I ever did, but nothing is a given."

The University of Texas senior is currently the top 100 fly swimmer in pre-season meets with 44.78sec, and owns the third-best time of 1min 40.72sec in the 200 fly, behind the University of Arizona's Justin Wright (1:40.57), and University of California (Berkeley) and Singapore team-mate Quah Zheng Wen (1:40.68).

Schooling acknowledged the results of his rivals, saying: "It is good to see healthy competition, it keeps me motivated and accountable to myself. Those are good times and all the more I would need to be accountable for myself."

He also admitted that after he returned to training at UT in late 2016, following his Olympic victory, he did it because he had to, not because he wanted to. "I had a 'whatever' attitude, I didn't care about swimming... I didn't have the motivation," the 22-year-old said.

But he insisted that things have changed as he gears up for his final NCAA season in Minneapolis.

"Compared to last year, it is basically a 180-degree change - my work ethic has changed for sure, I go into practice wanting to give myself the opportunity to be the best I can be," he said.

"Last year, I didn't care about swimming, but once you start caring, everything changes - you take better care of your nutrition, you have more rest and you're not partying anymore.

"All these things add up, at this level there's no room for mistakes. Winning is the only way; some people may kill to be in the top three, but for me that's a failure, that I am not winning."

UT hosts the Texas Christian University in their last dual-meet on Friday (Feb 2, Saturday morning Singapore time), with Schooling and the Longhorns hosting the Big 12 Championships, the dress rehearsal before the NCAAs, from Feb 21-24.

Beyond his last NCAA meet, 2018 is shaping up to be a major year for him outside the pool. He graduates in May, but will finish all his school modules only in December. He will then transition into a full-time swimmer.

To that end, the Schooling family has appointed veteran public relations practitioner Rose Tan as a consultant to help the swimmer prepare for the next stage of his swimming career, with Crowd PR handling his media relations and social media. Her responsibilities include engagement and liaising with media and partners, as well as searching for an appropriate international sports marketing agency to represent Schooling in the near future.

"We are excited to have Rose and Crowd on board," said May Schooling, Joseph's mother. "As Joseph prepares to turn professional, he will need to work with experienced business professionals who have a firm understanding of sports marketing.

"We approached Rose to take up this role, and we are pleased that she has agreed to come on board."

Tan said: "I am honoured to work with Joseph and his family to help him make a seamless transition to the next phase of his journey as a professional swimmer.

"I will do my best to bring in the right partners to turn him into an international sports star."

For Singapore, Schooling's major meet this year would be August's Asian Games in Indonesia, with the Singapore Swimming Association not nominating him, Quah and Quah's Texas A&M-based sister Jing Wen for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

Schooling explained: "It would have been tough for me (to make the Games) because my school exams are in early May, and it would be difficult for me to catch up with classes and revision if I am gone for almost a month before that."

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