Asian Games: No pressure on Schooling's back

INCHEON, South Korea - After several false starts, Joseph Schooling finally made his mark beyond the South-east Asian level, clinching a silver in the men's 100m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.

He became the first Singaporean swimmer to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, but he had little time to bask in the afterglow, because there was a transition awaiting him back in America.

The 19-year-old left Bolles School in Florida, where his prodigious talent blossomed, for the University of Texas, to continue his education and training.

Schooling has had to settle into a new academic and training environment, and also get used to even more pressure preparing for another huge challenge - the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Singapore's butterfly sprint star will make his debut at the Asiad when he takes the plunge on the opening day of swimming tomorrow in the 200m fly at the Munhak Park Tae Hwan Aquatics Center, but his bid for gold will be in the 50m and 100m fly events next week.

Speaking to The New Paper recently, Schooling dismissed any notion that he was under even more pressure after his success in Glasgow.

Big Smile

"I don't think it does anything. It only proves that I can be up there with the best in the world, and all that gives me is a big smile on my face and the confidence to do well," he said.

He flew straight back to the US for the move to Texas, together with his parents Colin and May, after the Commonwealth Games and very quickly settled back into his training routine.

While he is now training under Eddie Reese - who's groomed the likes of Olympic champions Ricky Berens, Garrett Weber-Gale and Aaron Peirsol - Schooling has also been aided by his former mentor Sergio Lopez in the lead-up to the Incheon Games, which officially opened yesterday.

Schooling said: "Training has been good. I've been up and down with this transition from high school to college, but I'm adapting and fitting in very well.

"My focus has been to adapt and be comfortable with this new way of living."

His new teammates and coaching staff have been "very supportive" from the get-go, and he joined up with the rest of Singapore's 17-strong swim team in Incheon earlier this week.

He will be the man to beat in the 50m and 100m fly, after recording Asia's season-best timings (23.43sec in the 50m and 51.69sec in the 100m) in Glasgow.

His time in the 50m fly equalled the Asian record. First, though, he will have to negotiate the 200m fly.

His national record of 1min 56.27sec, set at the World Championships last year, would have placed him fourth in Asia this year, but he only managed 1:58.04 and finished last in the final in Glasgow.

That performance makes him the 12th fastest in Asia this year, with only Japanese swimmers ahead of him in the rankings.

But don't count against the 1.84m swimmer to make another successful transition - becoming Asia's best.

This article was first published on September 20, 2014.
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