Swimming: Schooling 'still has love and passion to race for S'pore', says head coach Tan

Joseph Schooling in action for the men’s 100m butterfly during the Liberty Insurance 52nd SNAG Major Games Qualifier on Mar 17, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore swimming's golden boy Joseph Schooling still has the "love and passion to race for Singapore" and national head coach Gary Tan believes the 2016 Olympic champion can regain his speed in the 100m butterfly again if he maintains consistency in training.

This was the assessment delivered by Tan on Sunday (March 20) at the conclusion of the 52nd SNAG Major Games Qualifier, a qualifying event for this September's Asian Games and the July 23-Aug 8 Commonwealth Games.

At the meet, which was Schooling's first competitive outing since last year's Tokyo Olympics, the 26-year-old met the qualifying times for both Games in the 50m and 100m butterfly events.

In the men's 100m fly final on Thursday, he clocked 52.09 seconds - his fastest time in his pet event in over two years.

Tan said: "He's definitely maturing in every single conversation that we've had. He's definitely approaching things in a much more purposeful manner, not to say before he wasn't. He still has that love and passion to race for Singapore.

"His approach to training with (National Training Centre assistant coaches) Gustavo (Schirru) and Alex (Mordvincev) has made a lot better progress in the way that the coaches are fitting a lot of different elements for him to pick and choose to see how he needs to best fit his programming as well."

Tan believes that with consistency in Schooling's training, he will be able to progress and hopefully move closer towards clocking his best times in his events.

Schooling's gold medal time of 50.39sec in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 remains his quickest time in the 100m fly.

Tan said: "His targets are still clear - he wants to get back to a 50 (seconds result) - that has always been in his horizon so he's definitely encouraged by the results that he's had over this meet."

Schooling, who won the 2018 Asian Games 100m fly gold in 51.04sec, could find himself back on the podium at the Asiad in Hangzhou if he is able to go below 51 seconds. Regional rivals like Japan's Naoki Mizunuma (50.86sec) Katsuhiro Matsumoto (51.18sec) currently own the quickest times in the two-lap race this year.

The final day of racing at the OCBC Aquatic Centre also saw Jonathan Tan, Mikkel Lee and Teong Tzen Wei going under the Asian Games qualifying time of 22.59sec in the men's 50m freestyle. Schooling was initially pencilled in for the event but did not race in the final because his main focus was on qualifying for the fly events.

Jonathan, who met the Asian Games 'A' times in both the heats and final with 22.27sec and 22.29sec respectively, was "grateful" to see his hard work bear fruit.

"The past few months have been quite tough and my coaches have done a fantastic job of helping me train over the weekends and fit my schedule in the sense that I can still swim close to my personal best," said the 20-year-old, who is currently serving his national service (NS).

A total of 12 swimmers met the qualifying times for the Asian Games, while five got 'A' cuts for the Commonwealth Games.

Tan was pleased with the results from the meet, noting the "depth coming through" in the squad.

The two-time Olympian was satisfied by how swimmers serving their NS like Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and Jonathan performed, and also highlighted the efforts of Teong, who has established himself as one of the country's top butterfly swimmers. The sprinter had previously focused on the 50m fly and freestyle events but beat Schooling to top spot in the 100m fly final on Thursday,

Tan, 39, also lauded the performances of veterans Quah Ting Wen and Amanda Lim, who both clocked 'A' times at the meet.

He said: "As a whole squad, the range of swimmers trying to make the team stepped up when they needed to step up. It's good to see some depth coming through - look at the fly events, the girls' freestyle, we're having more younger kids coming through as well and it's starting to look like there's a brighter light at the end of the tunnel."

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