Swimming: Schooling twice breaks Asian and S'pore 50m fly mark, qualifies for final at World C'ships

Joseph Schooling on the way to finishing third in his 50m butterfly semi-final at the World Championships in Budapest on July 23, 2017. PHOTO: SIMONE CASTROVILLARI

BUDAPEST - Record breaker and Joseph Schooling are fast becoming synonymous.

The 22-year-old showed no signs of starting his World Swimming Championships campaign on Sunday (July 23) in first gear as he twice powered to Asian and Singapore records en route to qualifying for the last eight of the 50m butterfly.

The final takes place in Budapest on Monday (12.17am, Tuesday morning in Singapore) and Schooling will fancy his chances of a podium finish.

After all, on the competition's opening day at the Danube Arena, Schooling posted a time of 23.05 seconds in the morning heats and bettered that with a 22.93sec swim in last night's second semi-final to finish fifth overall to advance.

The previous Asian and national record was 23.25sec Schooling set at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan. Then, he finished seventh in the final won by France's Florent Manaudou in 22.97sec.

Schooling said: "Just happy to get under 23sec, that sets me up nicely for tomorrow. I'm excited. The most important thing was top-eight today and it's anyone's game tomorrow."

The 50m fly title is one of two world crowns the 22-year-old University of Texas undergraduate had targeted in Hungary.

The other is his pet event, the 100m fly, in which he is the reigning Olympic champion after his historic performance at last year's Rio Games.

The 50m fly competition record (22.67sec) is held by Milorad Cavic and was set at the 2009 edition in Rome, in the era of the now-banned supersuits. The world record of 22.43sec was set by Rafael Munoz in the same year at the Spain national championships in Malaga.

Unlike the 100m fly world record of 49.82sec - Michael Phelps set it at the 2009 Rome meet - which Schooling believes is within his grasp (he owns the Olympic record of 50.39sec), the Singaporean ruled out any attempt in the shorter event.

His only focus is victory, which would give him his first gold at the biennial championships after he captured a bronze in the 100m fly two years ago in Russia.

On Sunday, he had looked calm throughout and was almost nonchalant about rewriting the record books. He said: "I'm actually more concerned with how (Jordan) Spieth is doing at the (British) Open right now. I've finished my job for today."

Competition for medals will be stiff though, given the strength of the field that awaits him.

There is Ukraine's Andrii Govorov (his 22.77sec puts him as the second-quickest qualifier), American Caeleb Dressel (22.76sec to be top qualifier) and England's Ben Proud (22.92sec).

Govorov, 25, is the European 50m fly champion and has a personal best of 22.69sec. Dressel, at 20, is a two-time Olympic champion (4x100m free and medley in Rio) and defeated Schooling in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard fly at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in March.

Singapore's other representative Quah Zheng Wen competes in his first event, the 100m backstroke heats, on Monday.

Schooling, who has withdrawn from the 200m fly event, said: "It was the first time I tried this breathing pattern today and I wasn't too comfortable with it. But if I can nail it tomorrow, it's going to be very exciting."

In the first two finals of the swimming meet, China's Sun Yang won the 400m freestyle easily in 3min 41.38sec, ahead of reigning Olympic champion Mack Horton of Australia (3:43.85) and Gabriele Detti of Italy (3:43.93).

American star Katie Ledecky captured her third straight 400m world title. She finished first in a new competition record of 3:58.34. Teammate Leah Smith (4:01.54) was second and China's Li Bingjie third (4:03.25).

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