Schooling on course to win first Commonwealth Games medal
Schooling matches Asian record and looks on course to become first Singapore swimmer to win a Commonwealth Games medal
He's touted for Olympian feats and, in just his first race of the Commonwealth Games yesterday, Joseph Schooling showed why he's quickly becoming one of the faces of Singapore sport.
He equalled the Asian record in the men's 50-metre butterfly event, set by China's Zhou Jiawei in 2009 and then equalled by Wu Peng last year.
"That's pretty sick," said Schooling, using his favourite catchphrase, when The New Paper told him of his continental achievement.
The 19-year-old Singaporean clocked 23.43sec to win his heat and was second overall among the 16 swimmers who qualified for the semi-finals.
By the time you read this, the Singapore star, who broke his own national mark of 24.06 set in 2011, could have become the sole owner of the Asian record after swimming in the first semi-final early this morning (Singapore time) at the Tollcross Swimming Centre.
If yesterday's time of 23.43, the second-fastest in last night's heats, is anything to go by, Schooling should also be swimming in tomorrow morning's final (2.07am, Singapore time), where he is bidding to be Singapore's first swimmer to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
"I didn't know about the Asian record, and hearing this from you just gives me more motivation to make the final in a faster time," the University of Texas student told TNP, after his opening heat last night.
He was relatively quick off the blocks with a reaction time of 0.60s, and Schooling says there's more to come.
"I wanted to swim through without taking a breath, but I took two. That slowed me down a lot." he said.
"For the semi-final, I will try to take a maximum of one breath. The rest of the strategy is the same - start right, and rip through it."
What makes Schooling's achievement all the more remarkable is the fact that he hasn't competed in the event in close to three years.
That didn't faze him.
Schooling led from start to finish in Heat 5, beating defending champion Jason Dunford and Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos and Roland Schoeman, and his new personal best was just behind England's Benjamin Proud who clocked 23.17, just off Schoeman's Games' record of 23.14, set in 2006.
"It was an easy race, to be honest," Schooling told TNP. "For a 200m swimmer, the 50m is never physically tiring. I felt strong in the water.
"There would be something wrong if I couldn't swim faster than I did when I was 16."
But Schooling is not taking a place in tomorrow's final for granted.
He said: "The heats were in the morning and we know everyone swims faster at night, which is when the semis and final will be held.
"It feels good to beat Chad and Roland, but I'm not reading too much into that.
"I'm just trying to make the final now. If I get there, this being a 50m sprint, anything can happen."
Meanwhile, Tao Li finished almost two seconds off her national record of 57.54 in the 100m butterfly, when she clocked 59.22 to finish fifth in Heat 4 of the women's race.
The 24-year-old did make the semi-final alongside Quah Ting Wen, who finished fifth in Heat 2 in 1:01.90.
Singapore's representatives in other swimming semi-finals will be Samantha Yeo in the 50m breaststroke and Quah Zheng Wen in the 100m backstroke, while the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team made it to the final after finishing as the seventh-fastest qualifier yesterday.
I’m just trying to make the final now. If I get there, this being a 50m sprint, anything can happen.
— Joseph Schooling (with President Tony Tan Keng Yam)