With fewer than two months to go before June's SEA Games, Joseph Schooling has received a big boost after a stellar first year at the University of Texas (UT).
Following his record-breaking performances during last month's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Swimming and Diving Championships in Iowa, the 19-year-old clinched the Newcomer of the Year award in his college's Big 12 Conference on Friday.
Previous winners include the likes of seven-time Olympic medallist Aaron Peirsol, who received the accolade in 2003.
The honour was something that the Singaporean did not foresee coming.
"I was surprised at winning this award. There are so many great talents in the Big 12 and I just feel lucky," he told The Sunday Times yesterday.
"It definitely boosts my confidence knowing this and I'll carry it through the next year."
Schooling swam his way to three titles during last month's NCAA meet, of which two were individual triumphs.
His 43.95sec split in the butterfly leg helped the Texas Longhorns to the 400-yard medley win.
The team's 3min 1.23sec timing also broke the NCAA mark of 3:01.39 that was set by Auburn in 2009.
The reigning Asian Games gold medallist in the 100m fly followed that up with a 44.51 time in the same event, bagging him his maiden individual NCAA crown.
His time was a mere 0.33sec behind Stanford's Austin Staab's fastest-ever NCAA timing.
It not only saw him become the first UT freshman to win a race since Austin Surhoff in 2010, but he also became the first Texas Longhorn to win the title since Ian Crocker last did 11 years ago.
Schooling was also victorious in the 200 fly, with his time of 1:39.62 moving him into third spot in American college history, ahead of American great Michael Phelps (1:39.65).
He capped an impressive debut in the championships when UT were crowned champions with 528 points after the three-day meet.
Schooling is slated to compete in up to six individual events in the SEA Games in June in Singapore. He won six golds in his last SEA Games outing in Myanmar in 2013.
This article was first published on Apr 19, 2015.
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