Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer
While Joseph Schooling’s silver medal in the 100m butterfly deserves praise, his timing of 51.69sec is still behind those of all the eight finalists in the 100m butterfly at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona last year.

Now that Joseph Schooling has delivered Singapore's first-ever Commonwealth Games swimming medal - a silver in the 100m butterfly, how much further can he go?

"If he wants an Olympic medal, the sky's the limit for him," Sergio Lopez, who ended his coaching ties with the Singaporean yesterday, said.

"You can see that his time (51.69sec) will put him in the current top three in the world."

National coach David Lim added: "He lost to an Olympic gold medallist (South Africa's Chad le Clos) by 0.4 of a second. "That is a huge boost for him to stake his claim to be a world-class butterfly swimmer.

There is joy and delight that Schooling has overcome a major hurdle, but to topple the likes of le Clos or even challenge US swimming superstar Michael Phelps who is making a comeback, Lopez believes his now-former student needs to upgrade the power in his arms and legs.

Schooling currently stands at 1.84m and weighs 74kg. Phelps, however, has superior reach with his 1.93m and 88kg frame.

"He already is a very talented swimmer, his strokes are okay but he needs more power," the 45-year-old coach said of the Singaporean teenager.

"He hasn't lifted the hard weights yet. That will be the next phase of his training (at the University of Texas, Austin) if he wants to go to true world-class standard."

Without doubt, Schooling's stock has risen and blue-chip swimmers are taking notice.

Le Clos, who won in 51.29sec, did not hesitate to heap praise on the 19-year-old, saying: "He is a fast, young swimmer and it is people like him who are going to keep us on our toes.

"I mean, 51.69sec is no joke.

"It is a very impressive swim for a young guy like him."

Although Schooling has delighted Singaporeans with his feat and while his silver medal in Glasgow is confirmation of his potential, he is by no means the finished product.

To put his new national mark into perspective, the world record is still held by Phelps, who clocked 49.82sec during the 2009 World Championships in Rome in the "super suits" era - almost two seconds faster in a sport where success is determined by the smallest fraction.

At the World Championships in Barcelona last year, all eight finalists in the 100m butterfly notched faster times, with winner le Clos doing 51.06sec and eighth-placed Yauhen Tsurkin from Belarus touching home in 51.65sec. The Singaporean finished 17th overall then (52.56sec) in the heats.

But at 19, Schooling has time on his side. Phelps set his world record at 24. And the Singaporean is showing signs that he is acquiring the mental toughness required to be a serial winner at big meets.

When he floundered in the 200m butterfly final, finishing last, an upset Schooling declined to speak to the media and, by his own admission, was tense and moody around the Games Village.

But he snapped out of that by becoming more sociable, playing card games with team-mates and getting involved in banter. The result: A historic piece of silver now dangles from his neck.

Lopez said: "Jo has learnt to understand swimming and understand himself.

"This experience is more hard mentally than physically. But he has gained enough experience and is growing to be a man."

National coach Lim, a former Olympian and Commonwealth Games swimmer, provided more insights, saying: "If every swimmer can break records and do personal bests every day, Michael Phelps will be in trouble.

"There are days to bask in glory and there are bad swims.

"Jo has to learn to take accountability for his bad swims. He has to learn to react well on bad days, this is all part and parcel of the sport. Over a six-day meet, a lot of things can go wrong."

And if Schooling's Commonwealth Games performance is to be charted, it will look like a wild roller-coaster ride - superb in the early 50m butterfly heats, then dipping in the finals before plunging steeply as he finished last in the 200m butterfly final.

Rebounding, he soared to a high with his silver medal but it all flatlined again yesterday morning, when he looked jaded as he finished 15th in the 200m individual medley heats.

His time of 2:07.04 is seven seconds slower than his national record (1:59.99)

"If there is one swimmer that can stay on top over the course of a six-day meet, it's Phelps," Lim noted.

"He is still learning, in that sense. He has got to swim fast when he is supposed to.

"That's what Joseph has to aim for to be a true great."

meng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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