Leonard Thomas: Schooling's ready
S'pore star not fussed about missing 100m free final as he focuses on the big one
REPORTING FROM RIO
He was sixth fastest in the afternoon heats, obliterating his national record as he stormed into the semi-finals.
It was his first time in earnest battle at the 2016 Rio Games, and Joseph Schooling seemed to be in a real hurry to earn his spot in the final of the men's 100 metres freestyle at the Olympic Aquatics Centre.
Some nine hours later, the 21-year-old Singapore swim star (left) finished last in the first semi-final (yesterday morning, Singapore time) and missed the opportunity to make history.
He clocked 48.70sec, well off the 48.27 from the heats and slower than his previous national standard of 48.58.
He failed to become the first Singapore man to take his spot in an Olympic swimming final.
It was a rare opportunity missed, but he was hardly flustered, only relaxed.
"It was an alright swim," he said, surprisingly easily, when he stopped to talk to the Singapore press minutes later.
"I feel warmed up for the 100 fly now. I don't train for this (100m freestyle) and it's nice to be in the top-16.
"Now I'll rest up and be ready."
No one knows if he was actually disappointed, because Schooling simply doesn't give anything away.
Grinning, he claimed he plunged into the pool and almost took a butterfly stroke.
This is an athlete in perfect sync with the moment, knowing which buttons to push as he approaches the biggest swim of his career.
He's a contender in the 100m butterfly and he was not about to show any sign of weakness to rivals like American Michael Phelps, South African Chad le Clos and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh.
Instead, in the heat of battle, he simply hinted at how fast he could go when he actually trained for an event.
And for effect, he added: "It's good that I got out there and had a taste of what it's like swimming at night.
"Now I know the kind of atmosphere and what to expect."
The sprint butterfly heats are scheduled here this afternoon (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) and Schooling said yesterday he was going to watch videos and just chill, until the moment arrives.
It will be his final act of the 2016 Olympics, it is what he has been training so hard for.
Teammate Quah Zheng Wen will start in Heat 3.
Hungary's Cseh will go in Heat 4, South Africa's le Clos in Heat 5.
Heat 6 will feature Phelps in Lane 4, and Schooling a close neighbour in Lane 5.
Quah's qualifying time is listed as 52.25sec.
Only Cseh, le Clos, Phelps and Singapore's fastest flier own qualifying times under 51 seconds, with Schooling ranked fourth.
Schooling, whose national record is 50.96, belongs in elite company, he knows it, it is why he is confident.
An American journalist asked him if he would watch the 200m butterfly final and he said, "Nah."
Phelps was remarkable as he propelled himself to gold in the event, but Schooling already knows what lies ahead.
"My butterfly is looking smooth. I did one before coming here and clocked 51.4," he revealed.
"Swimming here, in an atmosphere like this, with the likes of Michael, I believe I can go faster."
History beckons, the stars will be out in force, the greatest will nudge his shoulder, and Schooling's primed.