When Joseph Schooling became the fastest swimmer in South-east Asia last night, he looked up and pointed both his index fingers skywards.
At the victory ceremony later, the 19-year-old University of Texas at Austin looked visibly touched, as he sang the Majulah Singapura and watched the national flag rise at the other end of the pool.
While he is usually cool and laidback outside the pool, the Asian Games champion said he realised the magnitude of his feat - he had won the men's 50m freestyle in a Games record time of 22.47 seconds and, more importantly, he rewrote Singapore's longest-standing national swimming record.
Once the fastest man in the world in this event, Ang Peng Siong's mark of 22.69 has stood since Aug 20, 1982.
Many swimmers have come close, but failed to break that time in almost 33 years.
Schooling said: "It is a huge relief to break Uncle Peng Siong's record, it really means a lot to me... honestly, I think my dad is more excited about me breaking Uncle Peng Siong's record than I am, so I also did it for him."
He revealed to The New Paper that he felt emotional because of the victims of the Sabah earthquake, which claimed the lives of eight Singaporeans who were climbing Mount Kinabalu. Among the dead were pupils from Tanjong Katong Primary School.
A minute of silence was observed before both the heats and the finals at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.
Schooling said: "I did it for all those kids who passed away in the earthquake, it is a huge tragedy. Those two things were on the back of my mind today."
Incidentally, Ang, 52, witnessed his mark being erased from the record books as a television commentator.
The former national coach said: "I have been waiting and waiting (for this moment), and Joseph is the right one. He has already shown in his performances on the second day and the record was there for his taking.
"He is definitely the most deserving athlete to take on this national record."
But Ang warned that the feat, while significant, pales in comparison with Asia's best in this event.
He pointed out that Japan's Shinri Shioura (21.88) and China's Ning Zetao (21.94) have already broken the 22-second barrier in the event last year, and Singapore will still need to play catch up.
Ang said: "We have to understand that the record was set 33 years ago, everyone has moved on since then... we need to catch up and really start thinking of strategic plans to train sprinters."
While Schooling's timing in the freestyle event - which was not his pet stroke - has not reached world level yet, his gold-winning 200m butterfly race definitely ranked up there with the best.
Schooling clocked 1min 55.73sec to claim victory, and rewrote his own Games and national records of 1:56.67 and 1:56.27 respectively. His time places him seventh in the world this year and bodes well for the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, next month.
He also bettered the 2016 Rio Olympic 'A' qualifying time of 1:56.97.
Schooling has won all four events out of nine he's competing in.
He said: "I am on track, I have five events after the 200m fly, everything becomes a lot easier. I am pretty happy."
This article was first published on June 09, 2015.
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