NCAA championships are more intense than Olympics, Schooling says

He has gone to the Fina world championships, as well as the Olympic Games, and even won a gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea last year.

But, for swimmer Joseph Schooling, none of those compare to the NCAA Division 1 Men's Swimming & Diving Championships in Iowa, the United States, which concluded on Sunday morning (Singapore time).

In an interview with The New Paper, the 19-year-old Singaporean said: "The NCAA is the most intense meet in the world.


"It's more exciting than the Olympics and the world championships. "Everyone was getting up and racing all the time. There wasn't a dull moment."

Schooling, who also won a silver and bronze at the Asiad last year, won two individual NCAA titles last week - the 100 (44.51sec) and 200 yard fly (1min 39.62sec) - as well as the 400 medley relay crown with his University of Texas teammates Kip Darmody, Will Licon and Jack Conger in a new meet record time of 3min 01.23 sec.

He said: "To win both fly events as a freshman was what I wanted to do, (but) the 400 medley relay - where we came from behind to win - was the highlight for me."

Along with national teammate Quah Zheng Wen, who starred at the National Age-Group Swimming Championships last month, Schooling is expected to star at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here, from June 5-16.

While the US-based swimmer will now have to adjust from competing in yards - the standard in the US collegiate swimming scene - to metres, he says he will be ready to shine come June.

Schooling said: "Honestly, the SEA Games isn't on my mind right now, I just finished a very stressful meet. "In a week, I'll turn my attention to the SEA Games. I'll be ready for it."

A possible rivalry between Zheng Wen and Schooling at the Games has been bandied about, with the former making the 'A' timing for the men's 200m fly for the 2016 Olympic Games in Spain last week - making him the first Singaporean swimmer to make the cut for Rio de Janeiro.

Both swimmers are the nation's fastest qualifiers in the men's 50m, 100m and 200m fly, as well as the 100m free.


But Schooling was unperturbed by the supposed rivalry between the pair, saying: "I don't really keep tabs on what others say about Zheng Wen and I."

"At the end of the day, the more fast swimmers there are for Singapore, the better our country will do (at the Games)," added the Bolles School graduate, who is aiming to make the Olympic qualifying marks at the World Championships in Russia in August.

And while he has been recently pictured sporting a closely-cropped hairstyle, a far cry from his previous looks, he promised that his familiar hairstyle will make a comeback at the Games.

He laughed and said: "(The hair cut) is a freshman tradition! No worries, it's growing back."

This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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