Schooling draws cheers as he smashes Games mark
Olympic champion off to perfect start after rewriting his own 50m fly mark
It was a workday night, but no one could have told from the crowd at the National Aquatic Centre in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The spectators in the packed stands roared as the big screens showed the men's 50m butterfly finalists waiting to make their entrance to the pool deck.
Among them was Singapore's Joseph Schooling, who recently provoked the ire of Malaysians when he was misquoted as saying he would teach the SEA Games hosts "a thing or two" during the competition.
The 2016 Olympic 100m fly champion has since cleared the air upon his arrival at the Malaysian capital, and it was cheers, not jeers, that greeted him and the finalists last night.
The 22-year-old didn't disappoint, shattering his own Games record of 23.49sec (set in 2015) with a time of 23.06, although it fell short of the national mark of 22.93 which he set at the Fina World Championships last month.
Indonesia's Triady Fauzi Sidiq (24.01) and Vietnam's Paul Le Nguyen (24.37) were second and third respectively. Schooling's teammate Dylan Koo was sixth with a time of 24.61.
Asked about the crowd's reception, Schooling said after his race: "I was expecting it to be positive; we are here to have a good meet and put on a good show and the crowd wants to see that.
"It's a Monday night, it's a working night and, for them to pack the stands and come out here and support all of us, that's amazing.
"So I am very pleased with the reception and I think it will get better as the days go on."
The University of Texas undergraduate was also pleased with how he had performed in his first race at the Games - he emerged from underwater about a body length ahead of the rest.
Schooling said: "My first swim was kind of nervy, I am glad to get that first swim under my belt, and happy with the result.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start and, hopefully, I can get better throughout the meet."
Schooling's teammate Quah Zheng Wen had a first night to forget though.
The 20-year-old relinquished his men's 50m backstroke title after clocking 25.39sec to finish second last night.
Indonesia's I Gede Siman Sudartawa, who won this event in 2011, clinched the gold with a new Games record of 25.20, while Vietnam's Le Nguyen was third with 25.82.
The 50m back event was not offered at the 2013 Games in Myanmar.
Quah said: "I was 0.2sec off my personal best so I am kind of disappointed with the result.
"It wasn't what I wanted, but there are no guarantees in a 50m race.
"He (Siman) just happened to have a better swim tonight and I just have to put it behind me and look forward to the rest of my events."
Quah added that it will not be difficult to shake off the loss and refocus on his pet event - the 200m butterfly - today.
He said: "In terms of racing, it (the 50m back) is just a touch-and-go kind of thing, there's not much time to think about anything.
"The 200 fly tomorrow is a different race.
"It should be pretty easy to get off this (race) and get into (the groove for) the 200 fly."