With the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games now underway, spectators have already glimpsed the greatness of Singapore’s rising star in 19-year old Joseph Schooling.
On just the second day of the swimming competition of the Games, Schooling has already broken two individual Singaporean records. First, Schooling sprinted his way to a stellar 48.58 in the men’s 100m freestyle in new SEA Games and Singaporean record-setting fashion. Then, Schooling earned a new Singaporean National Record and SEA Games record in the men’s 200m freestyle (1:47.79), as lead-off to his squad’s winning 4x200m freestyle relay. The relay would also go on to break the SEA Games Record in the event.
Known primarily for his prowess in the butterfly events, where, while competing for the University of Texas Longhorns, Schooling was double NCAA champion, winning both the 100y butterfly and 200y butterfly events, it may surprise some to see his dominance in these freestyle events. Of course, someone who is certainly not surprised is Schooling’s Texas coach Eddie Reese.
Prior to the start of these SEA Games, while hosting a Singapore Swimming Association-sponsored clinic with that nation’s head coach, Sergio Lopez, Reese foreshadowed his vision for Schooling at these SEA Games. “If he were to pick a meet a year after the Olympics (next year), like the Asian Games, leave the fly events alone and compete in the freestyle and individual medley events, he will surprise people in the 100 and 200 free, as well as the 200 IM,” said Reese.
Of Schooling’s performance, Reese commented, “I’ve said before he is talented, and not nearing his best. His 100m freestyle swim today was better than what Sergio and I expected. Breaking 49 seconds is unexpected, but going 48 is just beyond believable. His best events are the butterfly, so it is exciting to see how he fares.” (Singapore Today)
This echoes the sentiments of the athlete himself, who admits he did not formally prepare for his freestyle events. “It is always great to have a good first day at the swimming competition and start it off with a big bang,” said Schooling. “I wanted to get two gold and two national records so I am glad I pulled it off. I don’t really practice much in the freestyle, so I just winged it. Seven more events (in this SEA Games) is a lot, and a lot of things can happen, so I just take it one day at a time … I am confident with what I can do.” (Singapore Today). Schooling is entered in a total of nine events over the course of the Games.
Looking slightly more long-term, Reese talked high-level on the plan for Kazan, saying, “After this meet (SEA Games) we’re going to talk about his lineup for the world championships… I think getting the medals is the most important thing.”