Schooling off to a record-breaking start
Schooling starts his SEA Games campaign in record-breaking style
He had not tapered his training fully for this meet, and started his South-east Asia (SEA) Games swimming campaign in events that are not in his pet stroke, the butterfly.
Yet, Asian Games champion Joseph Schooling claimed two golds in as many events at the OCBC Aquatic Centre last night, as well as two national records and two new Games marks.
The 19-year-old US-based swimmer blew everyone out of the water in the men's 100m freestyle final, clocking 48.58 seconds to claim victory and, in the process, rewriting the national record and the Games mark 49.89, and meeting the Rio 2016 Olympic 'A' qualifying mark.
Joseph was the lead-off swimmer for the men's 4x200m free relay, the last event of the night, and gave his team a huge lead, coming in with a new national record of 1:47.79.
The quartet of Joseph, Danny Yeo, Pang Sheng Jun and Quah Zheng Wen won the relay in a new Games mark of 7min 18.14sec (see other story).
Joseph said: "I don't think my first day could have gone any better. Clocking 48.58 in the 100m free is a pretty big surprise... considering I don't really practise a lot of freestyle. I just kind of winged it and see where I can go. I am about 15th in the world now in an event that I am not gunning for, so it's a good sign for my butterfly events, and others that I care more about."
His University of Texas in Austin coach Eddie Reese was similarly pleasantly surprised by the timings that his protege clocked last night.
He said: "We had a goal to break 49 seconds in the 100 free, but 48.58 is more than just breaking that mark.
"It was better that what Sergio (Lopez, Singapore national coach) expected, and I can't wait to see him in the 100 and 200 fly events."
The men's 100 free was the first of four events that teammates Joseph and Zheng Wen raced against each other. Zheng Wen, 18, claimed the silver in the final last night with 49.91.
He said: "I didn't go as fast as I did during the Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (in March this year), so that was a bit of a letdown for me.
"But Sergio has been telling us that it's not just about the golds, but how we perform as Team Singapore.
"And, as a team, we finished 1-2 and that was the best we could do, other than tying for first."
Both will be up for the men's 200m fly today, while Zheng Wen also has the 200m back.
Joseph said: "You always want to start with a big bang and I am glad I could do that today.
"I am going to try to go close to the world's best times in my fly events, and the way I am swimming right now, and the way I feel, with the crowd behind me, I feel that I can do that. I am confident of what I can do."
Other than swimming for himself, and his nation, he will also be racing for the victims of the Mount Kinabalu earthquake, which includes Singaporean primary school pupils, their teachers and instructors.
He said: "It is definitely sad to hear such news. They will be in the back of my mind tomorrow, and I am going to swim for those Singaporeans and Malaysians who died."