Renowned swim coach Eddie Reese says Schooling is his biggest talent
In his 47 years as a swim coach in the United States, Eddie Reese has produced former world-record holders and Olympic gold medallists such as Aaron Peirsol, Ian Crocker and Brendan Hansen. The 73-year-old American has also led the University of Texas at Austin swim team to 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association team championships since 1979.
But he has never seen anyone as talented as Singapore's swim sensation Joseph Schooling, who is a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin and now trains under Reese.
In a phone interview, Reese told The New Paper: "As far as talent goes, Joseph's way more talented than anybody I've seen in my programme. He has got the gift."
Asian Games 100m fly gold medallist Schooling may have joined the Texas Longhorns only in August this year, but Reese believes that under his guidance, the 19-year-old is a world-beater in the making.
Said Reese, the men's head coach for the United States Olympic Swimming Team in 2004 and 2008: "I have not seen anyone like him in all my years of coaching.
"You know what is a dolphin like under water? Well, he is the closest human to a dolphin under water.
"His underwater butterfly kick is one of the best in the world; he's got everything and we're working to try to get the best he can be at the SEA (South-east Asia) Games and then at the World Championships (next year). We take it one meet at a time."
Schooling's previous coach Sergio Lopez, who takes over as Singapore's national swim coach from next month, had said that weight training should figure prominently in his next stage of development.
Reese confirmed that the Singaporean has been doing that, as well as intense training in other strokes to boost his individual medley (IM).
There have also been small adjustments such as stroke count and how many breaths to take.
Reese said: "One of the key things he will get in the next two years, just through physical maturation and the dry-land programme, is more strength, and that is going to help his butterfly.
"Butterfly is a strength item, so you've got to be strong to do it. He's gotten a lot stronger and already tied his best short-course fly in the 100m.
"He has also gotten much better in the 200m, and his IM is already better. I really think that by the 2016 Olympics, his IM will be world class."
There is already some indication that Schooling is going in the right direction under Reese.
At the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame Invite earlier this month, the 19-year-old clocked 1min 41sec to win the men's 200-yard (183m) fly.
That timing puts him ninth among the all-time top performers in the US.
In the 100-yard fly, he also clocked 45.59sec, the third-fastest in the US this season.
Before he started under Reese, Schooling had already clocked 51.69sec in the 100m fly at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this year, which won him a historic silver medal.
That timing ranks him at No. 8 in the world this year.
Reese has set Schooling an ambitious target of 51 seconds by summer, which he said will be his student's best bet for a medal at the 2016 Olympics.
To put that target into perspective, Michael Phelps topped the men's 100m fly world ranking this year at 51.17sec, and the American set the current world record of 49.82 in 2009.
But the veteran coach is not putting a medal prediction on his protege because of the unpredictable nature of sports.
Reese said: "Right now, he's eighth in the world (in the 100m fly), so there is a good chance that he can be in the final at the Olympics and the world championships.
"If he breaks 51 seconds, he will be in the hunt... and it will depend on who is the best in the last 10 metres. That will depend on how hard you work and how much you sacrifice to get there."
Reese is confident that Schooling will be motivated in his pursuit of Olympic glory in 2016.
He said: "Joseph is a good man. He is a good person to have your hopes riding on, because if there's a way to do it, he's going to do it.
"If he doesn't do it, it would not be because he didn't do everything he could do to get done whatever it is.
"But he's never made the finals in a world championships or the Olympics, so those are big steps (to take)."
You know what is a dolphin like under water? Well, he is the closest human to a dolphin under water.
— Eddie Reese, on Joseph Schooling
Joseph is a good man. He is a good person to have your hopes riding on, because if there’s a way to do it, he’s going to do it.
— University of Texas swim coach Eddie Reese
WHETHER HIS IMPRESSION OF SCHOOLING HAS CHANGED: Actually it has. Joseph is just a lot better than I thought he was. I knew he was a real good swimmer but... he is a student of the sport and a great student in academia.
BEING JUST LIKE PHELPS: (Joseph) knows everybody all over the world, particularly the swimmers in his events. He knows where they are, if they are working hard, and how they are progressing. Among the guys on the US team, who is most like that is Michael Phelps.
MENTALITY: There are two types of good swimmers in the world — 80 per cent of them like to win and 20 per cent hate to lose. About 95 per cent of the US Olympic team hate to lose, and Joseph hates to lose. You will find that in every champion.
BEST EVENT: All of us are born with different muscle types and because of a different percentage of these muscle types, you get swimmers who are sprinters, distance swimmers or in between. We don’t really know where Joseph fits, but it should be more towards the 100m event, because the 50m flyers are all real big guys who are 6’4 (1.93m) or 6’5. His 100m fly is always going to be good, and one of our goals is to make his 200m comparable.
Name: Eddie Reese
- Head coach of the Texas Longhorns men’s swimming and diving team since 1978.
- Head coach of the United States’ Olympic Swimming Team in 2004 and 2008.
- Led Texas Longhorns to 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) team championships.
- Won NCAA Coach of the Year eight times.
- Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an “Honor Coach”.