21-year-old Joseph Schooling single-handedly put his nation of Singapore on the swimming map by stunning a stacked field to take 100m butterfly gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Schooling’s winning time of 50.39 reigned over American Michael Phelps, Hungarian Laszlo Cseh and South African Chad Le Clos,to become the fastest time ever in a textile suit.
In a brief visit home post- Olympics, the Singaporean public showered Schooling with a hero’s welcome complete with city-wide parade and exclusive meeting with the nation’s Prime Minister. Schooling was also awarded a financial bonus for his gold medal-winning performance, to the tune of $753,000, the largest of any medal bonus in the world.
As incredible an inspiration Schooling has proven to be, however, the state of sport of swimming within the nation is still somewhat shrouded in uncertainty. Despite having had a high-profile head coach in place through this summer in the form of Sergio Lopez, Singapore sent its smallest swimming roster in more than 30 years to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Siblings Quah Zheng Wen and Quah Ting Wen joined Schooling in Rio, however, only the former had actually attained a FINA A cut. For Ting Wen, she was awarded universality, having only scored FINA B qualifying marks.
With Lopez now having moved on to an Assistant Coaching role at Auburn University back in the United States, Singapore Swimming has yet to officially name the replacement Head Coach. The Strait Times says a source has confirmed in-house favorite Gary Tan is in the lead for the role. Tan is whom Lopez previously endorsed before he officially left the position. At just 34 years of age, Tan himself is a two-time Olympic swimmer who retired in 2006.
Perhaps an administrative decision may signify a toll of the bell of change for Singapore Swimming, as the nation’s Olympic Council had applied and was granted a nation code change from ‘SIN’ to ‘SGP’. The new SGP notation applies to both regional and international sport events, in line with the United Nations’ International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
With both superstar Schooling’s and Quah Zheng Wen’s mandatory military service deferred until after Tokyo 2020, the focus to increase Singapore’s presence in Olympic finals is at the forefront more than ever. Schooling himself has said he’ll be increasing his racing portfolio to include the 200m butterfly, 100m and 200m IM events to bring his total to a possible 4 when his pet 100 fly is involved.