At the games
In a strange way, Joseph Schooling's Commonwealth Games debut mirrors the weather in Scotland's biggest city.
He started with a bang, smashing the national 50m butterfly record with a new time of 23.43sec in the heats last Thursday.
At the same time, the sun started to peep out of the dark clouds to bring 30 deg C weather to Glasgow. Women came rushing out in skimpy tops while men walked the streets shirtless to top up their tans.
But as the competition wore on, the Singaporean's form started to wane - as did the weather, with rain lashing Glasgow during the weekend and everyone was wrapped up in parkas again.
Things came to a head on Saturday night at the Tollcross Swimming Centre when he finished dead-last in the 200m butterfly final. By then, the 19-year-old was moody, downcast and a storm was brewing inside him.
But, as he told The Straits Times after reaching the 100m butterfly final with a new national record of 52.22 on Sunday night, erasing his old mark of 52.33, he decided quickly that there was no point in moping.
Schooling confessed: "It was really bad. I was too tense. I've not been the best team-mate.
"I walked around the Games Village looking stressed.
"I finally told myself to take a step back, chill out and start having fun again.
"I watched a movie, I joked with (coach) Sergio Lopez and I played dai di (a Chinese card game) and bridge with my team-mates."
And, in a bizarre twist, he also attributed his poor displays to an overly-tight pair of shorts.
He said with a sheepish smile: "The shorts I had been using were just too tight. I lost a lot of leg strength and in the 200m butterfly final, I cramped up.
"I got new temporary shorts but they were too big and water got in. But I felt much better in them."
Rebooting his outlook, a refreshed and rejuvenated Schooling produced a strong swim in the 100m butterfly semi-finals, coming in third overall, behind England's Adam Barrett (52.00) and South Africa's Chad le Clos, who effortlessly glided to a time of 52.12. But the Singaporean, seen as the biggest hope to land the Republic's first-ever swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games, thinks he has more to offer.
"This swim is one of my best- ever, it's right up there with my 50m butterfly here (he broke the national record)," he said.
"I am going to squeeze more out of myself. I feel that there is more left in my tank."
And he may yet have earned himself a fortunate break yesterday, as he had no morning heats to contend with, prior to his 100m fly final in the evening.
Smiling, he said: "It's my first morning off in this Games so maybe it's a sign."
And, true enough, the sun was shining again yesterday morning.
This article was published on July 29 in The Straits Times.
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