Singapore’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist, Joseph Schooling, has been relatively quiet on the international racing front. Post-Rio, the University of Texas student-athlete was greeted with a hero’s welcome in his home nation, complete with parade, ceremonies and prestigious meet-and-greets. Now almost a year removed from his historic swim, Schooling admits his instant fame caused him to get ‘lost’, a feeling which impacted his NCAA performances, including missing out on the 200 butterfly final.
However, while competing at the Texas Sernior Circuit Meet the weekend of June 8th, Schooling posted a world’s top ten-worthy time in the 100m butterfly, clocking 51.82. He also registered an impressive 50m butterfly time of 23.51 at the meet, just off his personal best of 23.25. As a result, Schooling declares “I’m back”, just in time with the 2017 World Championships only 30 days away.
“I kind of lost myself [after Rio]… I definitely understand the situation (of extra attention) better, and I know how to manage it now,” Schooling said in a recent The New Paper interview.
“Having so much attention, and in such a large-scale, can definitely be overwhelming, and you can definitely lose yourself, and that was where I was from August to December last year.
“Now, I tell myself ‘keep doing well, accomplish what you want to do, all the opportunities will come and you can enjoy them when you’re done with swimming’.
“I’ve definitely learned to say no to certain opportunities, because I have to take care of my swimming, and I definitely forgot swimming was the priority in the first semester after the Olympics.”
Schooling said as much in an interview at the NCAA Championships, where he stated he hadn’t been back in the water until December 2016, a fact which made Texas Head Coach Eddie Reese ‘nervous.’
Back to form, however, at the Senior Circuit meet Schooling also raced the 200m butterfly in just prelims, stopping the clock in a time of 2:00.21, of which the 21-year-old was pleased.
“It’s always hard to break the two-minute mark in the morning heats, swimming next to no one,” he said. “But I’ve looked at my splits; I backed off the third 50m a bit too much, but I came back strong (in the last lap).” Schooling’s splits in the race were 26.76/30.50 (57.26); 32.05/30.90 (1:02.95).
“That means I am fit, I am ready to go, and that was what I was looking for… with more rest the race is going to be easier, and if you put someone next to me, I’m definitely going to go way faster.”
Schooling is tentatively slated to race the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly events, as well as the 100m freestyle. In May, Schooling stated one of his primary goals is to take down American Michael Phelps’ World Record time of 49.82 in the 100m butterfly, whether in Budapest or beyond.
“I’m looking forward to that race and deep down I think if I do what I know I can do, if I execute everything well perfectly, I’d have a really good shot,” said Schooling.