Tired Schooling wins a medal and now wants a rest
Singapore swim star labels the Glasgow Games the most exacting of his career as he continues his road to Rio 2016
Joseph Schooling sounded tired and spent. He had just completed his gruelling programme at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and seemed ready for a long sleep.
By his own admission, the swimming competition, which ended this morning (Singapore time), was the most stressful he has ever experienced.
"Everything kept building up inside me the last couple of days; the expectations and the pressure," he told The New Paper last night.
"I wanted so badly to bring a medal home for Singapore, especially after two horrible finals (in the 50m and 200m fly)."
The 19-year-old accomplished his mission yesterday morning (Singapore time), when he stormed to a silver medal in the 100m butterfly at the Tollcross Swimming Centre in Glasgow, Scotland.
It was the Republic's first swimming medal in the history of the Commonwealth Games and confirmed his ascent to world-class status, as the swimmer continues to plot a course for the 2016 Rio Olympics and his quest for a gold medal in Brazil.
Schooling's sizzling time of 51.69sec is a new national record, lowering his old mark of 52.22 set in Monday's semi-final, and equalled the old Games record set by Australian Geoff Huegill in 2010.
South Africa's Chad le Clos won gold in a new Games record time of 51.29, while Englishman Adam Barrett collected the bronze (51.93).
Schooling roused himself when TNP told him of Singaporeans waking up at 4am to catch his swim into the history books.
"Wow. Whoever woke up at that time to watch me swim, on a work day no less, I have to say thank you," he said.
"I put my heart and soul in that swim; I can't tell you how happy I am to win that silver medal."
The teenager, who entered the Commonwealth Games with eight gold medals from two South-east Asia Games (two in 2011 and six in 2013), had every reason to be delighted.
His effort in the 100m fly was the fourth fastest time in the world this year, just 0.02sec slower than Michael Phelps' best of 2014.
Before the historic feat, Schooling had set new national records in the 50m butterfly (23.43) and 100m freestyle (50.05) at the Glasgow Games.
But two disappointing finals followed, first in the 50m fly and then in his favourite event, the 200m fly, where he finished seventh and last, respectively.
"At the starting block in the first two finals, I was just thinking about the medal, the glamour and all that," admitted the University of Texas student.
"I froze out thinking about the race, which was the most important thing.
"The difference in the 100m was that I focused on my game plan; on how I was going to win."
The swimming ace, the Republic's biggest male swim sensation in decades, knows he has little respite from here on.
September's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, looms and Schooling will once again be expected to deliver the goods.
His performance in Scotland suggests he knows his game plan.
He will have to do it without long-time coach Sergio Lopez, with whom he has forged a trusting relationship over the last few years.
In Texas, he will be under the guidance of renowned US swim coach Eddie Reese.
"I'm not worried about the change in coach," said Schooling.
"I chose Texas because of Eddie; because he's a world-class coach and a world-class person. I know he believes in me."
Schooling has no plans to trim the number of events he competes in.
The holder of five national records (50m, 100m, 200m fly, 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley), the teenager said he wants the variety.
"I might even add one or two more events," said Schooling, who stands 1.84m tall.
"Swimming a lot of races keeps me in shape. The 200m fly, for instance, helps build my endurance.
"After my experience here (Glasgow), I know I have to build on my strength. Doing weights is a big part of college swimming and I'll be working closely with my strength coach in Texas.
"As a swimmer, I can't be bulky, (instead) I have to be flexible. But I'm still at an age when a few years make a big difference in terms of strength."
Perhaps Schooling's biggest challenge from here will be learning how to block out the distractions as he gets stronger, faster and more successful.
Fast becoming a household name in Singapore, Schooling is gaining recognition at swim meets in the US.
But, with a laugh, he said: "I've learned how to stay grounded. My dad used to always stress that I should be like an officer and a gentleman.
"So I'm not worried about getting cocky or overconfident."
Schooling is at least open to the idea of a nickname after his historic feat in Glasgow.
After all, Singapore have had two "Golden Girls" in Patricia Chan and Joscelin Yeo, while Neo Chwee Kok, a star in the 1950s, was the "Flying Fish".
"People in Florida call me Jo-Jo, but I'm not so sure that's a nickname," he said.
"If I have to have a nickname, I'd prefer something like Singapore Surfer. That would be cool."