GLASGOW - His entries into the pool at the Commonwealth Games are usually muted, with just a quick smile and a wave. But on the night he ended Singapore's duck of never winning a medal at the meet, Joseph Schooling marched out confidently, with a big grin and pounding the national flag on his clothes three times.
It was a small gesture, but a significant one that offered a glimpse into his transformation from a sulking teenager into a young man who has learned how to purge negativity and harness his undoubted potential.
"I've learned something here becuase a couple of years ago, I would have thrown in the towel and said 'let's go home'," Schooling said inside the athletes' lounge at Glasgow's Tollcross Swimming Centre, after getting a massage to relief his aching right thigh muscle. His 100m butterfly silver medal was proudly displayed on a nearby table for the officials still with him at 11pm.
As he revealed to The Straits Times earlier, his last-placed finish in the 200m butterfly final last Saturday hurt him psychologically and he spent the day moping around the Games Village.
But he made a conscious decision to cheer up and begin socialising with his team-mates again.
So when he emerged with those three thumps on his chest for the 100m butterfly final, he was in the zone.
At that moment, he was a coiled spring of explosive energy allied with newly-discovered inner peace in order to make his body obey the brain.
"It was a great feeling. I jumped in... it was my only race here where I felt really confident. I was at peace, I knew what I had to do and I remembered to dig deep.
"I'm very happy with myself. It had been very stressful and to come back and win a medal on the fifth day when everybody was tired was phenomenal.
"When I got to the wall, it was a huge honour and a huge relief."
Looking back on his whirlwind five days in Glasgow, a pensive Schooling reflected: "I believed in myself. That is the biggest takeaway I got here.
"I completely messed up the 200m but I came back to this big thing. To beat these guys shows how much I've matured."
This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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