Reese backs Schooling to bounce back
Schooling's coach says Olympic champion can bounce back from 'disappointing' Worlds
Singapore swim star Joseph Schooling's performance at the Fina World Championships may have been "disappointing", but his coach Eddie Reese remains highly optimistic of his protege's journey towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Schooling had aimed to win the men's 50m and 100m butterfly, and break Michael Phelps' 100m fly world record of 49.82sec in Budapest, Hungary, but he finished fifth in the shorter race and joint-third in his pet event early yesterday morning (Singapore time).
His time of 50.83sec was some way off his Olympic-winning time of 50.39sec last August.
Reese, Schooling's coach at the University of Texas, said: "A disappointing performance doesn't have anything to do with the future except, we hope, making it better than it would have been.
"He is a great kid, he is really smart, he has to learn on his own."
Under Reese's guidance, Schooling won Singapore's first-ever Olympic gold medal in Rio last year, beating the likes of Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Laszlo Cseh.
But the 22-year-old Singaporean took almost half a year off after that, despite Reese's advice to return to the pool, to recharge and seek a new purpose to his daily grind.
He paid a price for that at the National Collegiate Athletic Association swimming competition in March, when he failed to win an individual title, and he acknowledged yesterday that it also affected his performance at the Worlds.
After the 100m fly final, where he finished joint-third with Briton James Guy, behind gold medallist Caeleb Dressel and 17-year-old Hungarian Kristof Milak, Schooling said: "It just wasn't clicking. When you take six months off and only come back in December, January, that's what you get.
"Eddie warned me. I thought, 'What does this old guy know?', but it shows you know.
"I had to learn the hard way. I got my a** kicked. There's no other way to say it."
In response to that, Reese said yesterday: "There's nobody, that whatever I tell them, they are going to do.
"We have this saying, that experience is the best teacher, but not the only teacher.
"I feel really good about our future. He's done a phenomenal job, and I want him to be better in the 100m and 200m freestyle, and he can do all of that stuff."
The veteran coach is also confident that Schooling can still better Phelps' 100m fly world record, but stopped short of saying if his student could beat Dressel, who is the break-out star in Budapest.
The 20-year-old American clocked 49.86sec to win the 100m fly, and also won the 50m free and 4x100m mixed freestyle relay yesterday morning.
It was the first time a swimmer had won three gold medals on a single night at either the Worlds or the Olympics.
Reese said: "Joseph has the ability to beat Michael Phelps' record. Caeleb, we cannot control. He's a big kid, real strong.
"He's the only guy I know who can beat Joe on the start in the kick out."
While Schooling acknowledged that his finishing had been problematic in Hungary, both Reese and Singapore Swimming Association technical director Sonya Porter agreed that the butterfly king does not have major problems to fix.
Porter said: "There's nothing really pressing (to fix), the first thing is for him to set his mind where he is going, and just break it down, decide and understand what needs to happen from this year. It's a build-up."
Reese added: "I don't want miracles. I don't want him training so hard that he bleeds every day.
"Just do what I ask - I don't tell him what to do. They (my swimmers) are all bigger and stronger than I am. I ask them and, for the most part, they do (what I ask of them)."
To retain his Olympic crown, Schooling must fend off these challengers
After last year's Rio Olympics, Joseph Schooling said he was looking forward to forming a rivalry with South African Chad le Clos leading up to Tokyo 2020.
However, some new names have popped up at the Fina World Championships and they could also threaten the Singaporean's defence of his 100m fly crown in Tokyo.
1) CAELEB DRESSEL
Could he have broken Michael Phelps' 100m butterfly world record of 49.82sec, had he not competed in the 50m freestyle final before the 100m fly finale?
There will surely be some debate on this, but there is absolutely no question that the 20-year-old American has emerged from the Worlds as the "next Michael Phelps".
His winning time of 49.86sec in the 100m fly is just shy of Phelps' record, and he is the first swimmer to win three gold medals on a single night at the Worlds or the Olympics - a feat not even Phelps had achieved.
Dressel has been known to excel in freestyle sprints at the short-course yards level, and there had been doubts if he could cut it in the long-course metre meets, such as the Worlds.
Schooling's former Bolles School teammate obliterated those doubts in Hungary with six gold medals (at press time), with a potential seventh on the last day of the meet.
2) KRISTOF MILAK
The Hungarian teen broke the world junior record for the third time at the Worlds when he clocked 50.62sec to finish second in the 100m fly final, behind Dressel.
His timing in the final placed him eighth in the all-time fastest list in the event, and he is only 17.
At 17, Schooling's national record in the event was 53.18sec going into the 2012 Olympics, while Phelps' best at that age was 51.84sec.
3) LI ZHUHAO
The Chinese swimmer is the former world junior record holder in the 100m fly and finished sixth in the final in Budapest with 50.96sec.
Just 18, he has already competed in an Olympic final - he finished fifth in the 100m fly in Rio last year with 51.26sec - and won a silver at the 2014 Asian Games, behind Schooling.
Li looks set to be Schooling's main threat at next year's Asiad in Indonesia.
4) CHAD LE CLOS
The South African, 25, may have bombed out at the semi-finals, but one cannot rule him out at the 2020 Olympics.
He was not favoured to win the 200m fly in Budapest, after Japan's Daiya Seto and home favourite Laszlo Cseh had set the pace in the heats and semis.
But the 2012 Olympic 200m fly champion pipped the duo in the final with his winning time of 1min 53.33sec.