Despite catching a stomach bug and developing a fever during the week of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Joseph Schooling refuses to use the illness as an excuse for his “disappointing” performance at the meet.
Speaking to the media after national championships concluded on Saturday night (Sunday morning, Singapore time), the 21-year-old 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist had harsh words for himself after failing to defend both his 100 and 200 yard butterfly titles, and placing third in the 50 yard freestyle.
“I think the party’s over. The good feeling from the Olympics only lasts for so long. Now it’s time. No one cares what you did a couple of months ago, it’s all about what you do now,” he said.
Schooling had taken a semester off from swimming after returning from Rio and resumed training in mid-December last year.
Continuing his candid self-assessment, he said, “I got my butt handed to me in this meet, and I think that’s a huge eye-opener. So I can’t rest on my laurels anymore, I can’t be like, ‘Oh you know I won the Olympics’. I don’t deserve to say that anymore. That was pretty disappointing honestly.”
At the inter-college national meet, Schooling placed third in the 50 free, and second in the 100 fly. He did not qualify for the 200 fly. His NCAA records in the 100 fly and 200 fly were broken by Caeleb Dressel and Jack Conger, respectively.
The University of Texas relay teams broke NCAA records in three relays and were crowned the national champions for the third consecutive year. Schooling, who is in his third year of university, says that the NCAAs next year will be even more challenging after a number of swimmers graduate.
“Next year, we’ll lose a lot of people. Who knows if I swim like this next year what will happen? Florida’s come in, Cal’s come in, they have a good freshmen class. I got to be at the top of my game, I can’t embarrass myself like that again… So I got a lot to work on,” he said.
For the rest of the year, Schooling will focus on “resetting mentally” and preparing for the World Championships in July and the SEA Games in August. “I want to get back both my (butterfly) records but right now, just cleaning up my act, getting back to work and swimming like I have a chip on my shoulder, like I’ve been doing all this while.”