Joseph Schooling improving after March malaise
S'porean also becomes first South-east Asian athlete to get on Google Cameos
With just two months to go before the World Swimming Championships, Singapore's Olympic champion Joseph Schooling said he's "getting better and better in practice" and is ready to conquer the pool.
The star swimmer seemed perturbed during the Singapore National Age Group (Snag) Swimming Championships in March, after winning the 100m butterfly in 52.70 seconds.
He declined to speak to the media despite the gold-medal finish, but told The Straits Times the next day that he was "a lot better", after meeting the World Championships' "A" cut for the 50m butterfly in his gold-winning time of 23.48sec.
Last Friday, the 23-year-old told The New Paper on the sidelines of a meeting with tech giant Google that he was unwell during Snag and was diagnosed with a mycoplasma infection.
"Before Snag, I was having some trouble in practice recovering since I got sick (during a training camp) in Eindhoven. So I... got a blood test done," he said.
"White blood count was still above the normal range and my doctor said I have mycoplasma bacteria that kind of lingered around through Snag."
He was prescribed antibiotics and has since recovered, feeling stronger with each training session.
"Right now, I'm definitely looking forward to what I can do in the next few months… I feel way more comfortable and confident in what I can do in the pool," he added.
Schooling was speaking after becoming the first South-east Asian athlete to be featured on Google's Cameos app, which allows celebrities and public figures to answer frequently searched questions about them in a video clip.
At July's World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Schooling will get another chance to add the 100m butterfly world title to his Olympic gold, which he won in 50.39sec in Rio de Janeiro three years ago.
At the 2017 world meet in Hungary, he finished joint-third with Britain's James Guy in 50.83sec. American Caeleb Dressel won the race in 49.86sec, while Hungarian teen Kristof Milak took silver in 50.62.
To prepare for his world-title bid, Schooling will be competing at the month-end Japan Open and next month's Singapore National Swimming Championships.
He will also be getting a customised suit by Speedo for the first time.
He revealed: "They're creating a custom-made suit. Usually, I just pull stuff off the rack and try to work with what they have, but this is the first time they're actually combining, say a 25(-inch) waist and 23 bottom, for example.
"I have a weird body, my hips don't really fit the size for the legs, so it doesn't really fit.
"They're sending me suits back and forth and came down to measure me personally a month ago. We're getting closer to where we need to be."
Through Cameos, Schooling answered questions on where he grew up (along Bedok Reservoir Road) and when he first got in a pool (10 months old).
Google's strategic partnership development manager Yen Trinh, who met Schooling to set up the app, said: "We've been looking to bring more personalities in.
"Being one of the frequently searched sportsman in Singapore and South-east Asia, we thought he would be a good fit… to use these selfie-style videos to answers users' questions in a uniquely personal, authentic and delightful way."
When asked how it felt to be the first athlete in the region to be featured on Cameos, Schooling replied it felt amazing.
He said: "It's a great way to interact, get personal with the fans… and answer questions that they don't have the chance to ask me in person, so this can bridge the gap."