Ties are not unhead of in swimming. The Rio Olympics had a few, including an historic tie for gold in the women’s 100 free and a tie for bronze in the women’s 100 back. Unlike track, which measures to the thousandths, ties happen.
However, a three way tie is still something really unique, rarely seen in electronically-scored meets.
But that’s exactly what happened in the men’s 100 fly. For the first time in the history of the Olympics, three men tied for a medal in a swimming event. What’s more, those men were three of the most prominent swimmers in history: Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh.
But arguably the bigger story here was the man who claimed gold: Joseph Schooling. In a stunning race, the 21-year-old Singaporean won his country’s first Olympic gold medal in any sport, defeating his childhood idol, Phelps, in the process.
Schooling qualified first out of the semifinals in a personal best time of 50.83. Phelps only qualified fifth out of the semifinals, but, as the most decorated Olympian in history, many assumed he would win his fourth straight Olympic title in the 100 fly.
However, Schooling wasted no time in defending his top seed. He had a great reaction time, leading the charge on the first 50. At the turn Phelps started to show his back-end speed, but Schooling held on, building his lead over the rest of the field.
He won in a new personal best and Olympic record time of 50.39. Phelps, le Clos and Cseh all tied for silver in 51.14.
This epic race was supposed to signal a passing of the torch: by beating Michael Phelps in his last Olympic race, Schooling established himself as a talented young swimmer, receiving national attention (and lucrative financial rewards) in Singapore for his performance.
However, he has since struggled to regain his 2016 form. He did win a medal in the 100 fly at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, tying Britain’s James Guy for the bronze and matching his semifinal time in Rio of 50.83. But at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, he failed to advance out of the prelims, finishing over 2 seconds slower than his winning time in Rio.
According to Schooling’s coach, Sergio Lopez, Schooling has been trying to find his love for the sport again. Schooling returned to training with Lopez shortly before the coronavirus derailed sport for a time – Lopez was also his high school coach at The Bolles School. With an extra year to prepare for the Olympics, Schooling, who is entering his physical prime, could benefit from the extra opportunity to get back to form for 2021.