Joseph Schooling: 'I won't let anyone take No. 1 spot away from me'
Schooling ready for 100m fly showdown with Dressel at Worlds after clocking second-fastest time this year
He looked at his rival Bryce Bohman in the next lane, pursed his lips and shrugged his shoulders, before breaking into a smile and offering a handshake.
Singapore's swim star Joseph Schooling won the men's 100m butterfly final at the Speedo Southern Zone Long Course Sectional Championships in Texas, United States, yesterday morning (Singapore time), ahead of James Cooper (52.13) and Bohman (53.08).
But Schooling's 50.96-second effort placed him only second in the world this year, behind Caeleb Dressel, who clocked 50.87 at the US Summer Nationals two weeks ago.
Schooling, 22, was aiming to better the 20-year-old American's world-leading time at the University of Texas (UT) pool yesterday morning, after clocking an impressive 50.70 swim in practice last Friday.
Despite falling short of his target, the UT undergraduate was "happy" with his sub-51sec effort and preferred to look ahead to the World Championships which start on Friday in Budapest, Hungary.
The swimming programme commences on July 23, when Schooling is scheduled to swim in the 50m fly.
He will also compete in the 100m and 200m fly and the 100m freestyle, and has declared his intention to win both the 50m and 100m fly.
"I wanted to clock the fastest time going into Budapest, but I am happy with my time," said Schooling in a statement yesterday.
"It is the second-fastest time this year and the same time that won me bronze in Kazan in 2015."
Schooling, who won Singapore's first Olympic gold medal in the men's 100m fly in Rio de Janeiro last year, has set his sights on breaking retired American legend Michael Phelps' 2009 world record of 49.82 in Budapest.
Standing in Schooling's way are former world junior champion Dressel, South Africa's Chad le Clos, and hometown favourite Laszlo Cseh.
Dressel defeated Schooling in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in March.
On the threat posed by Dressel, Schooling said: "Caeleb has the fastest time this year, but I am not going to let anyone take that No. 1 spot from me.
"I am looking forward to an interesting showdown in Budapest."
Schooling clocked a 23.76 split in his first 50m yesterday morning, and completed the second lap in 27.20.
It is comparable to Dressel's 23.87 and 27.00 splits at the US Summer Nationals two weeks ago, although the American is better known as a sprinter.
On his latest race, Schooling told website SwimSwam: "It felt kind of monotonous the whole way.
"I think in three weeks, I will get that front-end speed a little bit...
"I came back pretty solid, 27.20 is not too bad, but my break-out off the wall was pretty poor.
"I need to put my head down, I need to be a little more conscious of that, but other than that, technically nothing too bad (about my race).
"It is starting to get there... I am neither here nor there (yet). It's my fastest in-season time and that's a step in the right direction."
In comparison, Schooling clocked his previous fastest in-season time of 51.58 in June last year, going on to claim the gold in Rio in a new Olympic record of 50.39.
To the Singapore media, he said: "All the preparations and hard work are done.
"I leave for Croatia in a couple of days for a training camp with the Singapore team, and I will be ready come July 23."