The medal was sitting on the table in front of him, a stylised star embossed on its matte silver surface, but at that moment, even the affirmation that he was within touching distance of greatness was nowhere near enough.
Joseph Schooling, you see, is addicted to the W.
Winning, it seems, is written into his DNA.
The 19-year-old had just finished second in the men's 50m butterfly final at the Asian Games, touching home in 23.70 seconds, behind China's Shi Yang, who finished in a Games record time of 23.46. Yang Jang Doo of South Korea was third (23.79).
But there were no wild celebrations, not at the silver medal, his third at the Games after winning gold in the 100m butterfly and bronze in the 200m of the same discipline; not even after he became the first man - or woman - to medal in all three butterfly events at a single Asiad.
Schooling was already fixated on the next winning act. Facing the region's media in a press conference at the Munhak Park Tae Hwan Aquatics Centre, his eyes were fixated on the television screen at the side of the room.
They lit up as he watched China's Ning Zetao blow Park Tae Hwan and the rest of the field out of the water with a time of 47.70 in the 100m freestyle - a Games record, and the fastest time by any Asian in that discipline. "He did 47.70, and just smoked everyone. That's insane, impressive," said a beaming Schooling, who looked annoyed when his attention was turned back on to his own performance.
"I hate losing," he spat. "I mean for 50m, anything can happen, so many things can go wrong… so if it's not gold, deep down I feel a little despondent. Losing just makes me want to go back and work, and train harder. "(It's the same) no matter what it is, pool, bowling or golf - golf is the worst."
Perhaps the most frustrating of sports, golf requires mastery of both mind and body - and that unpredictable and often exasperating factor of the elements. In the pool, the athlete is much more in control, a better place for one addicted to winning, where craft can be honed, hours committed.
He will compete in the men's 4x100m medley relay in the final day of the swimming programme here today, but Schooling is already looking ahead to plan his work in the training pool with coach Eddie Reese at the University of Texas.
The Singapore National Olympic Council's Multi-million Dollar Award Programme (MAP) will see him pocket a total of $350,000 from his three-medal performance at these Games.
But that was not what Schooling was thinking about last night.
"I would've liked to have two golds and a bronze, but credit to Shi Yang, he swam a good race. I was behind him from the start, and playing catch up the whole way," said Schooling, who has his eye on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
And by his own admission he will not forget the one who beat him. "I hate losing," he reiterated. "I want to destroy the person (who beat me) the next time." I would've liked to have two golds and a bronze, but credit to Shi Yang, he swam a good race. I was behind him from the start, and playing catch up the whole way.
SCHOOLING'S MAP EARNINGS
› Asian Games
100m butterfly (gold): $200,000
50m butterfly (silver): $100,000
200m butterfly (bronze): $50,000
› Glasgow Commonwealth Games
100m butterfly (silver): $20,000
This article was first published on September 26, 2014.
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