Singapore’s Joseph Schooling made history in Kazan by becoming his country’s first medal winner at a World Championships. Schooling registered a time of 50.96 to claim bronze in the men’s 100m butterfly, as well as set a new Asian record in the event.
Schooling’s electrifying swim also represents the first time an Asian swimmer dipped beneath the 51-second threshold. Up until Kazan, Kohei Kawamoto of Japan had swum the fastest time of 51.00 at the Japanese National Sports Festival in 2009. That threshold of 51-point was something on Schooling’s mind headed into the World Championships. “I wanted [my timing] to be 50-something this year. My coaches believed I could do 50… I knew that if I broke 51 I could have a good chance of a medal. I was very happy to accomplish that”, Schooling said.
However, immediately following the 100m butterfly race at worlds, a huge shadow would be cast on Kazan all the way from San Antonio, as American swimmer, Michael Phelps, threw down the world’s fastest 100m butterfly time this year, a 50.45. Of the 22-time Olympian’s incredible time, Schooling said “I’m very excited to be racing him again. There’s something about him that just really motivates me.”
The 20-year old University of Texas student-athlete continued, “Beating Michael Phelps is like not like beating someone else. You’re beating the greatest swimmer in history. Him swimming next to me will motivate me more and try to push myself to the next level. I’m looking forward to racing him again.”
Phelps currently holds the world record in the 100m butterfly event with his time of 49.82 from 2009. Putting Phelps’ performance into perspective compared to his own, however, Schooling commented, “If Phelps had posted 48 seconds and broken the world record, I honestly wouldn’t have cared – because I accomplished what I wanted to do (in Kazan). The timings are irrelevant, you know. It’s about your position. If I broke the Asian record but finished last here, it wouldn’t have mattered. It’s all about who can get their hand on the wall first, and that’s how it’ll be in Rio.”
And what does Schooling’s coach think of his young protegé’s performance? Swimming Singapore’s Head Coach, Sergio Lopez, expressed that “50.45 is not Phelps’ best time. Joseph has improved seven tenths of a second in one year. If he improves another seven tenths of a second, he breaks the world record. So Michael Phelps better get ready to swim his best time.”
So, along with South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and his now infamous “he can keep quiet now” quote, it looks as though Phelps will have swimmers gunning specifically for him from all corners of the globe in the lead-up to Rio.