Wong off to winning start
Zheng Wen's satisfied
Quah cites two personal bests in Rio as progress
He had a tough programme here in Rio, he knew he would be busy lined up for the 100m backstroke, the 200m butterfly and the 100m butterfly at these Olympic Games.
After qualifying for all three events, Quah Zheng Wen was up for the challenge and set goals for himself.
He ended his second Olympic adventure here yesterday morning (Singapore time) in the semi-finals of the men's 100m butterfly, clocking 52.26 seconds to finish 15th in the field of 16 swimmers.
Speaking after the swim, Quah gave his assessment of his performance in the pool and said: "I think I did pretty well overall, with new personal bests.
"I wish I could have done better. I know I could have done better."
The 19-year-old was cheering on compatriot Joseph Schooling in the 100m butterfly finbal this morning, and he will want to taste and generate the same sort of excitement at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
It is Quah's target, and this experience will surely help him.
He fluffed his lines in the 100m backstroke, but came back strongly in the two butterfly sprint events.
He had hoped to qualify for a final, but did set new personal bests in both heats - 1min 56.01sec in the 200m fly and 52.08 in the shorter sprint.
He was slower in the two semi-finals and I asked him if it was down to experience.
"I don't know if you can say experience. It's a combination of factors, but I guess you can call it experience, as well," he said.
Outgoing national coach Sergio Lopez described Quah as a talented swimmer who will only get better.
After his poor performance in the 100m backstroke, the Spaniard, an Olympic medallist, predicted the youngster would do well in the 200m butterfly.
Quah's time in the heats would have seen him make the final, but he ended 10th fastest overall.
Young and armed with obvious potential, Quah has so much more swimming left in him.
He's about to begin National Service and, hopefully, the Singapore Swimming Association can work with the relevant parties and put together a training programme that will ensure Quah is in prime form for the 2020 Games.
National assistant coach Gary Tan praised the performances of Quah and Schooling at this Olympics.
"We've seen record-breaking performances by both Joseph and Zheng Wen these Olympics, and to see where they have come from their performances at the London 2012 Olympics to where they are today is simply amazing.
"In London 2012, they were young teenagers participating in their first Olympics and learning from the process of racing.
"And we see that they have learned from those experiences to get to where they are today.
"Don't forget, they are both young men, and have many years ahead of them.
"I believe whatever the result, this entire journey has been inspirational to all of the aquatic fraternity and encourages coaches and athletes alike, that Singapore can be among the world's greats in swimming."
QUAH’S NEW PERSONAL BESTS
Set during the 200m butterfly heats. He clocked 1:56.11 during the semi-finals.
Set during the 100m butterfly heats. He clocked 52.26 during the semi-finals.
Singaporeans in action
Stenson makes move
MEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY: Who's who
Lim Say Heng looks at the eight finalists, including Singapore's Joseph Schooling
MEN’S 100M BUTTERFLY SHOWDOWN
ALEXANDR SADOVNIKOV (RUSSIA)
The young Russian is one of two in this final who "graduated" from the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics to the senior stage.
Sadovnikov finished second in the boys' 100m fly in the Chinese city that year with 52.97, just 0.03 behind China's Li Zhuhao, who is in Lane 3.
The 19-year-old Volgograd native won a gold at that Games in the boys' 4x100m medley relay and another silver in the mixed gender 4x100m medley relay.
Date of birth: Sept 21, 1996
2016 best: 51.50 (Russian National Championships)
Personal best: 51.31
Olympic medals: Nil
MICHAEL PHELPS (US)
The Greatest of All Time, they call this man, even before these Olympics started.
The 31-year-old was already on 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes before he arrived in Rio, and has since added four more titles to his collection. The tally includes the 200m IM gold yesterday morning (Singapore time), just before he took to the water again to clock 51.58sec in the 100m fly semi-finals.
Phelps may be ranked fifth overall in the semi-finals, but one can never write off the American, who is bidding to win this event for the fourth consecutive time at the Olympics.
Phelps will be relishing the chance to avenge two losses to Joseph Schooling - two months ago in the Texas Longhorns Invitational and the 100m fly heats in Rio.
Date of birth: June 30, 1985
2016 best: 51.00 (US National Trials)
Personal best: 49.82 (world record)
Olympic medals: 22 golds, 2 silvers, 2 bronzes
LI ZHUHAO (CHINA)
The 17-year-old Chinese swimmer is the youngest in the field, but comes with some pedigree.
Like Sadovnikov, Li competed in the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics, where he won the 100m fly in 52.94.
Months later, he stepped up to the senior level at the Asian Games in Incheon, and claimed the silver in the 100m fly with 51.91, behind Schooling who clocked a Games record of 51.76.
Li also claimed a gold in the 4x100m medley relay in South Korea which set the Games record of 3:13.37 in the final.
He is the holder of the junior world record of 51.24 in the 100m fly, his personal best which was set at this year's Chinese National Championships.
He also owns the junior world record of 1:55.52 in the 200m fly, set at the Chinese Autumn Championships last September.
Date of birth: Jan 9, 1999
2016 best: 51.24 (Chinese National Championships)
Personal best: 51.24
Olympic medals: Nil
JOSEPH SCHOOLING (SINGAPORE)
At age 21, Schooling has already set many milestones in swimming.
In 2014, he won Singapore's first Commonwealth Games swimming medal - a silver in the 100m fly. He followed that up weeks later at the Incheon Asiad, where he won the 100m fly title, as well as a silver in the 50m fly and a bronze in the 200m fly.
Based in the US since 13, Schooling won gold in all nine events he swam in at last year's South-east Asia Games on home soil.
On the international stage, he claimed the 100m fly bronze at last year's World Championships, and helped the University of Texas to the national title two years in a row at the NCAA Championships.
Beating childhood idol Phelps twice in two months is a massive confidence-booster for the Singaporean. Will he win Singapore a historic gold this morning? A nation waits with bated breath.
Date of birth: June 16, 1995
2016 best: 50.83 (Olympic semi-finals, Asian and national record)
Personal best: 50.83
Olympic medals: Nil
CHAD LE CLOS (SOUTH AFRICA)
A star at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore in 2010, the South African made his name at the 2012 Olympics in London where he edged out boyhood hero Phelps to win the men's 200m fly by 0.05sec.
He also shared the silver medal in the men's 100m fly with Yevgeny Korotyshkin, with Phelps winning the event.
His star continued to shine at the 2013 World Championships, where he won the men's 100m and 200m butterfly in the absence of Phelps, who had retired after London.
Le Clos also claimed both 100m and 200m fly titles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Phelps' return from retirement in April 2014 sparked a feud between the duo, which extended to Rio.
In what has become a viral meme online, Phelps was shown on television with a deadly scowl in the call room before the men's 200m fly heats, as le Clos shadow boxed in front of him.
Phelps would go on to win the gold in the event.
Date of birth: April 12, 1992
2016 best: 51.43 (Olympic semi-finals)
Personal best: 50.56
Olympic medals: 1 gold, 2 silvers
LASZLO CSEH (HUNGARY)
The Hungarian is competing in his fourth Olympics, having made his bow in Athens in 2004.
Perhaps unfortunate to be competing in the same era as Phelps, the 30-year-old has never won an Olympic gold, claiming silvers in the men's 200m fly, 200m IM and 400m IM in Beijing 2008, and a bronze in the 200m IM in London, to add to his 400m IM bronze in Athens.
The swimmer, who stands out with his bald pate, has had better luck at the World Championships though, claiming golds in the 400m IM and 200m fly in 2005 and last year respectively.
The 33-time European champion also owned the season's fastest time of 50.86, achieved at the European Championships, before Schooling displaced the time with his 50.83 in yesterday morning's semi-finals.
Date of birth: Dec 3, 1985
2016 best: 50.86 (European Aquatic Championships)
Personal best: 50.86
Olympic medals: 3 silvers, 2 bronzes
TOM SHIELDS (US)
Shields is known for his underwater kicking, much like Schooling, which has given him much success.
Shields, 25, holds the short-course American records in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly events, and won back-to-back 100-yard fly titles for the University of California, Berkeley in 2012 and 2013.
He swam the 100m fly in the 2012 US Olympic trials, but could only finish fourth with 51.86, behind Phelps, Tyler McGill and Ryan Lochte.
Shields has never won an individual long-course title on the international stage but he was in the American team that won the 4x100m medley at last year's long-course world championships in Kazan, Russia.
This year, he has stepped it up, finishing second to Phelps in the 100m and 200m fly at the US Olympic Trials to make his Olympic debut in Rio.
Date of birth: July 11, 1991
2016 best: 51.20 (US Olympic trials)
Personal best: 51.03
Olympic medals: Nil
MEHDY METELLA (FRANCE)
The 24-year-old is the younger brother of Malia Metella, who swam for France at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and won a silver in the women's 50m free in Athens.
The younger Mehdy is the French record-holder for the 100m fly with 51.24, and has notched up numerous short- and long-course relay titles at the European and world championships.
He has only two individual medals at the international level - he took the 100m fly bronze in the short-course European championships in 2012, and the long-course 100m fly bronze at the European championships this year.
He swam the lead-off leg as France won the silver behind the US in the men's 4x100m free in Rio.
Date of birth: July 17, 1992
2016 best: 51.70 (European Aquatic Championships)
Personal best: 51.24
Olympic medals: 1 silver
"I’ve got a clear head, I will respond. I’ve always said don’t judge me when I’m running like a lion, judge me when my back’s against the wall. I need one more gold medal to become the best African athlete in the Olympics."
— Chad le Clos on today’s race
Schooling eyes the gold
Schooling eyes history as he clashes with his idol Phelps
REPORTING FROM RIO
He flailed his extraordinarily long arms across his torso like whips, sending lightning cracks reverberating around the arena and leaving those watching wincing, wondering how joints are not dislodged and ribs not cracked.
It has been Michael Phelps' signature all his swimming life, a way of warming particular muscles and by now an unmistakable warning to his rivals that THE MAN is in HIS HOUSE.
On Thursday afternoon at the Olympic Aquatics Arena here in Rio, he went through his usual routine in Heat 6 of the men's 100m butterfly, crouched in Lane 4.
I wondered if Joseph Schooling, hearing it ring loudest in his ears in Lane 5, would be intimidated.
The answer came 51.41 seconds later.
The Singaporean beat Phelps and led 16 of the world's best sprint butterfliers into the semi-finals.
At 9.12am today (Singapore time), Schooling will attempt to end his idol's unbeaten run at the 2016 Olympics. The world will be watching, an island nation will be attacked by nerves and gripped with excitement, as Singaporeans come together to will one of their own into the history books, and into global headlines, in the 100m butterfly final.
Only sport can do this and we all will forever be grateful to the Schoolings - dad, mum and their fearless son - for helping put together this magic show.
For much of his young life, the 21-year-old has said his goal was to own Olympic gold. Maybe he was ridiculed early on because Singapore has never feted a swimming medallist at the Games, but Schooling has already been vindicated here, although he was hardly in the mood to play it safe 24 hours before the final.
"I'm here to win gold. I'm not talking about a medal. I want to win," he said, after a record-breaking swim in the semi-finals of the event yesterday morning (Singapore time).
"It's time Singaporeans go for gold and not simply settle for a medal at events like the Olympics. A medal is not what I'm going for. I'm going for gold."
Not boastful or arrogant, but said matter-of-factly, after he churned up the pool to clock the fastest time of 50.83 in the semi-finals, beating his previous national record of 50.96 and setting a fresh Asian benchmark in the event.
China's 17-year-old prodigy Li Zhuhao will be alongside Schooling in the final in Lane 3. Nemesis Chad le Clos of South Africa was the second fastest qualifier and will be in Lane 5. Laszlo Cseh, the always dangerous Hungarian, will start in Lane 6.
They are all talented and capable.
But Phelps, who will stand in Lane 2, is the favourite. Singaporeans cannot quibble because the American was born for this.
The 31-year-old is the most talented Olympic miner and owns a record 22 gold medals.
Phelps has won four in Rio already, he is on form and in the mood with two events to go.
Crucially, he is enjoying himself, he says. Schooling knows this.
He will know that Phelps' only intention was to make the final yesterday morning, after his effort to win gold in the men's 200m individual medley, minutes before he went out in the first semi-final of the men's 100m butterfly.
The Singapore swimmer will know that his rival was slowest off the blocks and didn't pay too much attention at the 50m turn.
Phelps' turn is the best in the history of swimming and, well-rested, he will be all set to unleash it.
Schooling says he will be ready.
"All that I've done so far means nothing," he reasoned, minutes after the semi-finals.
"What matters is what I do in the final and that's what I'm focused on."
Phelps is the world-record holder with a time of 49.82 set in 2009.
Maybe that mark is not in danger, but the fastest man in the event this year and the fastest man in the history of the 100m butterfly, have been involved in some exchanges over the course of the last few days.
After their heat, Phelps recounted how Schooling had told him before the opening act that he would follow in his wake and be pulled along.
"I just told him, 'No man, I'll be following you and let you pull me along'," said the American.
A little bit of playfulness, and perhaps some mental jousting, before the serious business.
He won't be able to see Phelps in the final.
But he will hear that vicious and loud crack from Lane 2 and know THE MAN is about.
The world is about to find out if Schooling will crash into Phelps' HOUSE.
"Congratulations to Joseph Schooling, who has progressed to the 100m butterfly final with the best overall time of 50.83sec, which is a new Asian record!
The races were very exciting and both Joseph and (Quah) Zheng Wen did Singapore proud. We often underestimate the years of hard work and preparations because a race like the 100m fly concludes in just under a minute, barely a blink of an eye.
I look forward to seeing Joseph compete against the best in the world tomorrow. Together with Singaporeans back home, I wish him all the best!
My strongest encouragement to Zheng Wen too, for having progressed so far. He swam his heart out for Singapore and we are proud of him."
— President Tony Tan Keng Yam, in Rio to watch Team Singapore athletes in action
"The entire road to Rio has been a history-making, record-breaking race from start to finish. The outstanding performances of both Joseph (Schooling) and (Quah) Zheng Wen have shown us that we are punching above our weight as a nation, and are on track to reach our vision of becoming a leading aquatics nation. We’re anticipating a race that will truly stop the nation and we hope, wherever you are, you’ll be tuning in to see Schooling strive for medal glory."
— Singapore Swimming Association secretary-general Oon Jin Teik
“I was quite happily surprised with his performance in the semi-finals. He produced a phenomenal swim; it was the fastest 100m fly swim this year! I have friends, who know a lot about swimming, and they watched Joseph swim today and they told me that he still had a lot to spare. He might even break the Olympic record in the final tomorrow!”
— Colin Schooling, Joseph’s father
BY THE NUMBERS
Joseph Schooling's grand uncle Lloyd Valberg was Singapore's first Olympian, representing the country in the high jump event in the 1948 Games, which was held in London.
Stay alert, stay in touch
Travellers here still heading for Phuket
Some unshaken, others counting on increased security
Despite the bombings in Thailand on Thursday and yesterday, some Singaporeans heading to the kingdom remain unfazed about their holiday choice.
The New Paper spoke to five passengers who were checking in for a Phuket-bound Tigerair flight at Changi Airport yesterday evening.
A Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia, who wanted to be known only as Prathabini, 26, told TNP: "I've planned this holiday for three months, and this will be the only holiday I am going for this year because I am so busy. I don't want to cancel it."
The technology researcher is going there to meet her secondary school friends from Malaysia.
She will be staying for four days in Patong, the main tourist area on Phuket island, where two bombs went off yesterday.
The string of bomb attacks also hit other popular tourist towns in Thailand, including Hua Hin, Trang and Surat Thani, leaving four dead and many injured. (See report)
Other tourists interviewed at Changi Airport said they were not worried as they believed that security would be tightened following the bombings.
A Singaporean who wanted to be known only as Ms Poppy, 21, said: "We feel scared, of course. But we are going because we feel that after the bombings, they would step up the security. "
She will also be staying in Patong.
Similarly, airlines and travel agencies were not deterred by the bombs.
Singapore Airlines, Jetstar and SilkAir said yesterday that they had no flight cancellations.
SilkAir said that it will continue to monitor the situation closely.
A Chan Brothers' travel adviser, who wanted to be known only as Ms Valencia, said: "There has been no cancellation to Phuket at the moment."
Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said it does not have any customer at the affected areas.
She said: "The next group of about 80 customers will be leaving for Bangkok at the end of August and about 20 to Phuket and Hua Hin.
"All customers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. There are no cancellations at this juncture."
On social media, there were more than 172,000 tweets with the hashtag PrayForThailand worldwide.
Twitter user @fiorentiachen posted: "Just saw #PrayForThailand trending, god bless those who are injured and those who didn't make it, sad to see what's been going on lately."
Meanwhile, Ms Hui Yan, 26, a Singaporean holidaymaker who arrived in Phuket yesterday morning, said that the shops were closed.
She was clearing immigration with her friends at Phuket airport when the bombings took place and will be on holiday there till Sunday.
The marketing executive is staying a couple of blocks away from one of the bomb sites.
"We were not affected by the bombings, but we saw that Bangla Road (which leads to the beach) was cordoned off. We walked around the area, people didn't appear shaken, it's like a normal day," she said.
"The bombings haven't sunk in yet, but I think we'll take care to avoid crowded areas."