Schooling bullish about Olympic medal
Schooling confident of ending Singapore's long wait for an Olympic swimming medal
For the past three nights, he had been dreaming of racing side by side against some of the best swimmers in the United States.
Singapore's swim star Joseph Schooling is ready to make waves at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Championships in Atlanta this week, his last major meet before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August.
Speaking to reporters over the phone yesterday, the University of Texas undergraduate, who is top seed for the men's 100m and 200m butterfly events, said: "The weird thing is I've been having dreams about the NCAAs.
"I dream about a different race each day and I've never had those dreams before, so it just goes to show how locked in I am mentally."
The 20-year-old feels confident about delivering Singapore's first Olympic swimming medal in August.
Schooling is all pumped up for the sporting extravaganza, and brushed off the weight of expectations on his shoulders.
"It's all about what position I come in and, obviously, top three is the minimum for my personal expectations," he said.
"I've reached the point where my personal expectations are higher than what other people expect me to do.
"I feel like the pressure I put on myself outweighs (the pressure of) carrying Singapore on my back."
Schooling, who predicted that only "two-tenths of a second" will separate first and third place at the Olympics, believes he is unbeatable on his day.
"I reached a point in my training and my maturity that makes it very hard for someone to run me down if I'm ahead," he said.
"If I nail my finish in the last 50m, I don't think anyone can catch me."
The 1.84m-tall, 74kg swimmer recounted how he narrowly lost to South African Chad le Clos and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, last year, when he won a historic bronze medal in the 100m fly.
"I was 23.50sec in the first 50m at the World Championships… and I know Michael (Phelps) never breaks 24sec without a big shoot going out, so I think I have at least half a second on my goal in the first 50m," he said.
"I'm very confident with where I'm at but, at the same time, I know that I need to keep my head down and work towards my goal."
Schooling is looking forward to competing against record 18-time Olympic gold medallist Phelps.
"Personally, if I don't have someone I want to beat really badly, it's hard for me to get up and race," Schooling said of the 30-year-old American, who had come out of retirement to race for one last time in Rio.
"So with Michael in the field, it obviously gives me a lot more motivation to race and it always makes me do better.
"You've always got to be at your best to beat him or try to hang with him."
The Singapore swim team will head to Paraguay on July 7 for a training camp before leaving for Rio later that month, but Schooling might skip that and join his teammates at the Olympic Village.
"I've learnt from the 2012 Olympics that spending a whole month in London before I raced made me mentally tired from being there every day," he said.
"So, I'd like to be in the comfort of my home and spend as little time in Rio as I can."