Singapore's swim star Joseph Schooling stormed into today's final of the men's 100m butterfly at the World Swimming Championships, on the back of two national record-breaking efforts yesterday.
The 100m fly is his pet event, deemed his best chance at making a splash on the world stage, and Schooling (above) delivered.
He first clocked 51.65 seconds in the morning's heats at the Kazan Arena in Russia, bettering his own national record of 51.69 that earned him a silver medal at last year's Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
In last night's semi-finals, the 20-year-old went even faster with a 51.40 effort, making him the seventh fastest qualifier, behind joint top qualifiers - Tom Shields of the United States and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh.
"Not qualifying for the 200m butterfly final was disappointing, but I had to put that aside to concentrate on the 100m," said Schooling.
"In fact, it gave me the extra motivation to push myself. I swam well in the heats and semi-finals and started strong right from the beginning.
"I'm stoked for the final tomorrow and I am looking forward to put on a strong performance."
For a while in last night's semi-final, it appeared that the University of Texas undergraduate was on the verge of something very special.
He was the first to touch the wall at the 50m mark, the clock stopping at 23.83, 0.30 seconds ahead of the bald Hungarian Cseh, but he did not have enough power to see it through in the second leg.
Cseh won that semi-final in 51.03, with Schooling in fourth spot, behind China's Li Zhuhao (51.33) and third-placed Frenchman Mehdy Metalla (51.39).
Schooling can draw confidence from the day's performances that also saw him beat the reigning 100m butterfly Olympic champion, Chad le Clos, in the afternoon's heats - his 51.65 effort a shade faster than le Clos' 51.83.
Earlier in the week, Schooling became the first Singaporean man to qualify for a final at the biennial world championships, since Ang Peng Siong in 1986.
While Ang finished fourth in the 50m freestyle then, Schooling managed only seventh place in the 50m fly final, although that was yet another record-breaking feat by the trailblazing Singaporean.
Schooling lowered his own Asian record with that 23.25 swim.
Today, he will attempt to achieve what no Singaporean has done before - make the podium at a world championships.
"I'm delighted to see Joseph swim well today," said national coach Sergio Lopez.
"He was disappointed with his 200m fly performance but, today, we saw 'the fighter' in him which I described a few days ago.
"To recover from a setback and push on to clock a personal best in the 100m fly shows how determined he is to do well.
"I am looking forward to the final tomorrow and I am sure everyone back in Singapore will be rooting for him."
This article was first published on August 8, 2015.
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