SEA Games: Schooling gets first 2 golds at homecoming

SEA Games: Schooling gets first 2 golds at homecoming
Butterfly specialist Joseph Schooling clocked a superb 48.58sec in the 100m freestyle, with Quah Zheng Wen following him home for silver.

Having been based in the United States since he was 14, one could tell just how much it meant to Joseph Schooling to be racing in front of a home crowd.

As the 19-year-old Singaporean stepped out of the athletes' entrance on Day 2 of the SEA Games swimming meet, the University of Texas student raised both arms and gestured for fans to raise the decibel levels - to which they obliged.

Less than three minutes later, the sell-out crowd at the 3,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre were rewarded.

Schooling set the pool alight, winning the 100m freestyle in a Games and national record of 48.58 seconds, ahead of colleague Quah Zheng Wen (49.91) and Vietnam's Hoang Quy Phuoc (50.60).

His effort yesterday was also the 15th fastest time in the world this year.

It was little wonder that after winning, and feeding off the cheers of his home fans, he clambered onto the lane ropes and gestured for the crowd to get even louder.

"I love and cherish swimming in front of a home crowd, something I haven't done on this stage before," said Schooling.

"I'm glad that I could come here and swim and keep up to people's expectations, and mine most importantly."

He demands nothing but perfection of himself, and at this SEA Games, it could mean nine golds from nine events. Yesterday, it was two from two, with two Games records.

Together with Danny Yeo, Pang Sheng Jun and Quah Zheng Wen, he smashed the 4x200m freestyle relay Games record of 7min 26.67sec, the quartet clocking 7:18.14.

His time in the first leg - a blistering 1:47.70 - eclipsed the previous national mark of 1:49.17 set by Quah on Saturday in the 200m free final, and faster than the Games record time of 1:48.96 that Phuoc clocked in the same race.

Both his 100m and 200m free times also met the Olympic "A" mark for the Rio Games next year - making it a perfect start to his Games and a perfect homecoming.

Colleague Tao Li claimed Singapore's other gold last night, winning in her pet 50m butterfly event in a Games record of 26.58sec.

Quah Ting Wen made it a one-two finish for Singapore as she came home second in 27.02, ahead of the Philippines' Jasmine Alkhaldi (27.47).

Tao, who is entered in four events, said: "I didn't expect to break the Games record, and I'm pretty happy with that.

"It gives me more confidence going into my other races."

Samantha Yeo added a bronze for Singapore in the 200m individual medley, which was won by Vietnamese swim sensation Nguyen Thi Anh Vien.

The 18-year-old continued her dominance in the pool as she won both the 200m backstroke and the 200m IM in Games records.

That said, she finished fourth in the 50m fly, the first race she failed to win.

Anh Vien, Schooling and Quah, entered in 13, nine, and 12 events respectively, are locked in a battle for the most golds.

They have four, two and two golds respectively, although Schooling remains the only one on course for a perfect nine golds in nine events.

And he promised even more excitement in the next four days of the swimming competition.

The butterfly specialist, who will swim in the 50m free and 200m fly today, said: "I couldn't have started better than this, but I'm going to try and go close to the world's best time in my fly events.

"The way I swim right now and the way I feel and the crowd behind me and everything, I think I can do that."

siangyee@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 08, 2015.
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