Joseph Schooling has done it!
The Singapore swimming sensation has lived up to all the hype and expectation as he delivered the Republic's first-ever swimming medal at a Commonwealth Games by taking silver in the 100-metre men's butterfly final early this morning at the Tollcross Swimming Centre in Glasgow, Scotland.
"It feels so great to finally win a medal here, it's a huge honour and relief for me, and I believe for the country as well," Schooling told The New Paper after his epic race.
"When I jumped into the pool, I knew this is the only race that I felt really confident and at ease.
"I knew exactly what I had to do and I executed the race almost perfectly. I had to get out fast, I was out there with them, and coming back, I knew I just had to hold on. I remember thinking to myself in the last 15m I just got to dig deep."
New national record
That he did, and the 19-year-old's sizzling time of 51.69 seconds is a new national record, lowering his old mark of 52.22 set in yesterday's semi-final, and equalling the old Games record set by Australian Geoff Huegill in 2010.
South Africa's Chad le Clos won gold in a new Games record time of 51.29s, while Englishman Adam Barrett collected bronze in 51.93s.
After finishing seventh in the 50m butterfly final on Saturday and last in his pet event, the 200m butterfly final, on Sunday, Schooling was a dark horse for the 100m event.
But with a reaction time of 0.60s, he burst off the Lane 3 blocks quickest and was second to touch the wall at the halfway mark; his 50m split of 24.24 was ahead of Le Clos' 24.32 and behind the 24.06 clocked by Kenya's Jason Dunford who eventually finished seventh.
In the home stretch, Schooling tussled for the lead, managed to overtake Dunford and was actually leading at the 75-metre mark.
However, Le Clos surged ahead at the end to finish 0.40s ahead of the Singaporean star.
Nevertheless, it was a historic moment to savour for Schooling, who has had an excellent outing at these Games, in which he also set new national records in the 50m butterfly (23.43s, also equalling the Asian record) and 100m freestyle (50.05s).
The University of Texas student said: "This has been my most stressful tournament because of a rough start where I didn't do well in the 50m and 200m finals.
"Five years ago, I probably would have given up after two bad days of swimming, so I think this silver medal is a testimony to how much I have matured.
"I didn't give up, and I fought through. I could see I was neck and neck with Chad and Adam, and I was so determined to win a medal, I didn't care what colour it was, I just gave it all I got to keep up with them.
"And I did it. It's a huge honour to win Singapore's first-ever Commonwealth Games swimming medal."
For the first time, Schooling also explained in his own words just why he flopped in his earlier finals, and how he bounced back to win an unprecedented swimming medal at the Commonwealth Games for Singapore.
"My first swim was really good, my 50m fly heats, 23.43, I was really pleased with that, and I kind of relaxed a little bit and it went downhill from there," said the teenager who also dedicated the win to Sergio Lopez, his coach at The Bolles School for five years, whom he will part ways with after this meet to attend university.
"I lost the 50m final and screwed up my 200m final, got really tensed and I just cramped and locked up.
"I had to reboot. There was a lot of encouragement from my parents, coaches, team-mates and supporters and doing well in the 100m semi-final was the turning point.
"That really gave me to confidence to go for it in the final."
At the Schooling residence in Singapore, there were tears of joy and hugs of relief as his parents Colin and May were on the edge of their seats as they watched the proceedings from home.
"We are so happy he won! What a relief! He managed to achieve his goal and make history for Singapore. We are so proud of him," said May.
"As his parents, it was stressful to watch! He puts so much pressure on himself that we have to be there when he needs us, and it's hard to be there for him from a remote location. So it was so stressful watching him all the way here in Singapore. "But we are very happy Singapore can share with us this glory."
Next up for Schooling is the 200m individual medley heats later today at 6.10pm, where he is looking to go under his national record timing of 1:59.99 to make it to another final.
Then in less than half an hour, he will also helm the Singapore men's 4x100m medley relay team in the heats at 6.36pm.
He said: "At this moment, I'm physically and mentally worn out. I need a good shower and good rest, and we'll see about how we can get the best out of the medley swims."
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