Swim legend Ang pays tribute to Schooling
Happy, proud, and not in the least surprised.
Before Joseph Schooling's heroics in Incheon yesterday, Ang Peng Siong was the last Singapore man to win a swimming gold at an Asian Games with his victory in the 100m freestyle final in New Delhi in 1982.
After Schooling ended the 32-year-old drought with gold in the men's 100m butterfly last night, Ang told The New Paper: "Based on his times at the Commonwealth Games, I wasn't surprised that he won gold at the Asian Games.
"As a fellow Singaporean, I'm happy and proud of him, and also his parents, who have done a fantastic job bringing him up, making all the sacrifices to create the right environment and provide all possible opportunities for him to excel.
"This is yet another stepping stone towards that ultimate long-term goal of an Olympic medal, and the key thing is to stay hungry."
Schooling became the first Singapore swimmer to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games in July, when he bagged silver in the 100m fly.
Ang, 52, feels that training in the United States has helped Schooling tremendously.
After moving from Bolles School in Florida to the University of Texas, the 19-year-old will now be tutored by former US Olympic swim team coach Eddie Reese, whom Ang believes will bring him on even further.
Last year, Mindef stated the young star would be allowed to defer his National Service until August 2016, as he chases his dream of winning gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
"Deferment has definitely helped. If Joseph had enlisted, I don't think we would be looking at a Commonwealth Games medallist and an Asian Games champion now," said Ang, who was also based in the US during the '80s.
"Being able to continue to train and be competitive in the States, where he is on the blocks almost every weekend against some of the best young swimmers, definitely helps him to overcome nerves and build a competitive and winning mentality.
"Reese has produced many Olympic medallists and Schooling will definitely benefit from his time with him at the University of Texas."
Ang was ranked world No. 1 in the 50m freestyle in 1982.
He won silver in the event at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing for his sixth medal at the Asiad - the most by a Singaporean and a feat matched by Singapore female star Tao Li when she won a bronze in the 100m fly in Incheon on Tuesday.
Schooling's debut at this year's Asian Games has already seen him win two medals - one gold and a bronze in the 200m fly - and he could well eclipse them all by the time he's done with his swimming career.
Ang hopes Mindef will continue to support Schooling if he fails to win Olympic gold in 2016, because he thinks Singapore's latest swimming sensation can make a bigger splash in Tokyo 2020.
Drawing on his own experience, Ang said: "I had only six months after my ORD in 1988 to prepare for the Seoul Olympics, where they had the 50-metre freestyle event for the first time, and I could only win the B final.
"I don't wish that disappointment on any other swimmer, so I think it's critical that the Government supports Joseph through to Tokyo 2020.
"Joseph has just entered college - if he graduates in four years, that leaves just another two years to the 2020 Olympics. He would still be just 25 then and a fair call for an Olympic medal if he keeps improving.
"This is a rare potential Olympic medallist.
"I hope we won't miss this opportunity and have to wait another 30 or 50 years before the next one comes by."