Small switch pays off for Joseph Schooling

With barely three months to go till the Rio Olympics, Joseph Schooling is pulling out all the stops to ensure a place on the winners' podium - even if it means tweaking the swimming stroke that propelled him to global notice.

At the Atlanta Classic meet held from Friday to yesterday, the 20-year-old Singaporean adjusted his usual posture such that his head position was higher, in an attempt to keep his body planed out.

He had decided on the change only during his warm-up on the first day of the meet, he revealed to The Straits Times in a phone interview yesterday.

Schooling said: "Something didn't feel right about my kick. One of the Nitro Swimming club coaches I swim with during the off-season gave me some tips to work on - something I thought about in warm-up for 20 to 30 minutes."

Keeping an open mind evidently worked, as the University of Texas undergraduate won the 100m butterfly on Friday and followed that with a 200m victory on Saturday.

It was his first race in the longer distance this year and he timed 1:57.37, outlasting Pace Clark (1:58.03) and Kyle Higgins (1:58.83). Though it was some way off his personal best of 1:55.73, it should be noted that he was unshaved and untapered for the meet.

Schooling, who clocked 51.86sec in the 100m fly, the 13th fastest time in the world this year, said of the tweak: "(My kick) felt a little better. It's something I need to go back and work on... changing the position during the race probably wasn't the best thing to do.

"It's not terribly awkward; if you give me a couple of weeks just working on that... I adapt to things pretty quickly, my fundamentals are pretty good for fly.

"A small change could be the difference between a medal and fourth or fifth position. You never know whether you need that added boost, since the competition is so close."

Outgoing national coach Sergio Lopez, who coached Schooling for five years at the Bolles School in Florida, commented: "His kick is the most powerful (part of his stroke). If he doesn't work on it, he'll not be at his full potential.

"He seems excited and happy. I'm not with him every day, but if he feels confident that it works, I don't see why he should not make the change."

Overall, Schooling expressed his satisfaction over his performance at the meet.

He said: "I wasn't sure where I was going to be at in the 200m fly, but the timing was solid, with all the hard practice I've been doing.

"I don't think I've ever felt this fit during mid-season. I'm in a good spot; I'm just going to keep the ball ball rolling till Rio."

This article was first published on May 16, 2016.
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