Singapore's Joseph Schooling is fastest U-18 butterfly swimmer in US

Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling in action during the 200m butterfly event at the national swimming championships held at the Singapore Sports School on 9 August 2012.

SINGAPORE - As the world's best swimmers convene at the World Championships in Barcelona this month, one young Singaporean is ready to go toe to toe with his peers.

After a disappointing debut at the Olympics in London, this is Joseph Schooling's chance to be counted among the global elite.

His appearance at the Games was marred by a highly publicised cap-and-goggles fiasco - his equipment was deemed not acceptable - but the 17-year-old has since bounced back to claim three national records.

He has also emerged as the fastest Under-18 butterfly swimmer in the United States where he is based.

Joseph, in a phone call from Jacksonville in Florida, said: "I am confident. This is a great opportunity for me to put my mark on the world stage. I know that if I race hard, I will be up there. I know I have it within me."

He is entered for the 100m and 200m fly, 200m free and 200m individual medley.

Singapore national coach Ian Turner believes the schoolboy is the nation's best chance of boasting a swimmer in a final in Spain.

Said the coach, who will on Thursday lead an eight-swimmer team to Girona in Catalonia for a week-long training camp before heading for the competition: "It would be very difficult. But Joseph could surprise us all."

Top swimming news website Swimming World has even tipped Joseph, who met the "A" qualifying mark in the 100m fly with 52.33 seconds - the 25th fastest time this year - as a dark horse in that event.

Barely half a second separates his effort from eighth-ranked Pole Konrad Czerniak's 51.79 set last month.

But the swimmer is refusing to get carried away by pre-race talk, saying: "It's nice to hear people say good things about me, but at the end of the day, it's about what I can do and not what people write."

He knows that he will need to make a huge improvement to stand a chance against favourites like South Africa's Chad le Clos and Russia's Evgeny Korotyshkin - who were tied for silver at London 2012 with 51.44sec efforts.

Gold medallist Michael Phelps has since retired, making it the first time in 12 years that the 100m fly final will not feature the American.

German Steffen Deibler has emerged as the top contender, clocking the year's fastest time (51.19) at his country's national championships in April.

Turner has set the Singapore squad - the others are Tao Li, Danny Yeo, Samantha Yeo, Quah Ting Wen, Lynette Lim, Amanda Lim and Mylene Ong - a target of hitting personal bests in their events.

Samantha, 16, has been enjoying a purple patch of form this year, clocking two U-17 records in the 100m (1:10.49) and 200m breaststroke (2:32.34) last month.

Local officials tip her to crack the national marks in both events - 1:10.15 and 2:31.96 - soon.

But Samantha, who is making her debut at the world meet, is not letting the pressure get to her.

"I will try my best at the World Championships. It's thrilling to know that I will be swimming against the world's best like Ruta Meilutyte (Olympic 100m breaststroke champion) and Jessica Hardy (100m breaststroke world record-holder)."