Joseph Schooling: Extra year to prepare for Olympics is a boost for me
Olympic champion doesn't think he was ready going into the Games this year
Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling has admitted that he did not think he was ready for Tokyo 2020.
The Olympics, which were initially scheduled to take place from tomorrow to Aug 9, were postponed to July 23 to Aug 8 next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Schooling has struggled to hit the heights of his 100m butterfly win in Rio 2016, when his 50.39sec swim relegated pool legend Michael Phelps to joint-silver.
Schooling last clocked under 51 seconds at a meet in 2017, while American Caeleb Dressel has lowered the world record to 49.50sec at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, last July.
At last December's SEA Games, there were concerns over Schooling's weight and performances, with the 25-year-old admitting in an interview with The Straits Times in February: "In part it's true - I was out of shape".
While he has since cut a more toned figure, he conceded that the original dates of the Tokyo Olympics may have come too soon for him.
Yesterday, speaking at a webinar organised by the Embassy of Spain and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore on the transformation of the sports industry due to the Covid-19 crisis, Schooling said: "During this situation, it's very unstable, very unsure.
"Athletes have had to reinvent themselves in a different way... For me, personally, I don't think I was ready going into Tokyo 2020 this year.
"So, having an additional year to prepare intrinsically will really give me a big boost.
"You know, I had a couple things to figure out during the circuit breaker in Singapore."
This was a more introspective take than the bullish tone he struck in February, when he was asked if he would be able to turn his form around in time for the Olympics.
He said then: "It's all about getting better, but at the same time, wanting to prove some people wrong. I think I perform better whenever I'm under more scrutiny or a time frame."
One of the key issues Schooling had to sort out was his training plans.
Having relocated back to the United States to train under his former coach Sergio Lopez in February, the closure of pools there on March 24 prompted Schooling to return to Singapore at the end of that month.
Sporting venues were reopened for Singapore's Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls early last month and Schooling has returned to the pool following a regimen set by Lopez.
Singapore Swimming Association's head coach and performance director Stephan Widmer and technical director Sonya Porter are working with Lopez to track the progress of Singapore's only Olympic gold medallist.
Schooling believes the progress of athletes at next year's rescheduled Tokyo Games could be markedly different following the postponement.
He explained: "Mentally, we've had come to terms with, 'OK this is the situation, it might not be ideal'. But at the same time, everyone around the world is going through this pandemic and this current crisis.
"So, instead of being like, 'OK, this sucks. I don't want to do this any more,' you got to turn negative into a positive, as hard as that is.
"You don't have to feel great every single day. But it's what you do when you feel really negative about yourself and the situation and (how you) turn it into a positive that will really reflect going into the Olympics next year.
"I think the Olympics are going to be so different than it was going to be this year, athletes are going to perform very, very differently.
"People that were slated to peak at 2020 might not do so well, and those that thought 2020 was going to be a rough year, 2021 might be a whole different thing.
"So I think the mental aspect would be the most important thing... I've definitely gone through some scenarios over the last few months where I thought, 'Hey man, can I actually do this again? Am I ever going to be the same?'
"And every time you make a conscious decision to say, 'Yes, I will be better,' you're already surpassing a lot of people that say, 'Hey, you know what, this isn't for me, I can't do this, I can't do that. This is too hard'.
"So, at the end of the day, it's all those people with perseverance and will and the strength to succeed that will come out on top. And I believe in 2021, it's really going to show. It's going to be interesting."