After a slump in form earlier this year, Singapore swim star Joseph Schooling believes he can make a podium finish at more than one event at the 2017 Fina World Championships in July, and maybe even break a world record.
Speaking to reporters at Clarke Quay on Thursday evening (25 May), the Olympic gold medallist believes he has crossed some mental hurdles, and said that this could be the year that he makes a splash in the 200m butterfly event at the competition.
“I’m really excited about the 200 fly this year. It’s a huge mental event for me. Physically, we’ve put in all the work, we’ve put in all the hours. Shouldn’t have a problem finishing a 200 fly. It’s all about whether I want to do it,” he said.
Earlier in May, he clocked 1:56.45 to finish second in the 200m fly in the Arena Pro Swim Series at Atlanta, Georgia.
He will still have his work cut out for him if he is aiming for a podium finish in the event. His biggest competitor in the 200m fly is Japanese swimmer Masato Sakai, who clocked 1:53.40 to win the silver medal in that race at the Rio Olympics. Schooling’s personal best is 1:55.73 which he clocked at the 2015 SEA Games.
“I think I’m in a good spot, I’m ready. That 200 fly in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago – that was my fastest in-season time, and I haven’t been doing that many 200s, which is very encouraging. So hopefully, this is the year for my 200,” said Schooling.
At the previous World Championships in 2015, he came in third in the 100m butterfly behind Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh, becoming the first Singaporean to win a medal at a World Championships. He placed 13th in the 200m butterfly semi-final. Le Clos will again be his closest competitor at the meet in the 100m fly.
He is also not ruling out breaking Michael Phelps’ world record in the 100m fly. To date, only two swimmers have gone under 50 seconds in this race. When asked if he was confident of breaking the record, he answered, “I feel like it could go either way right now. I don’t want to say ‘Yes, I’m going to do it’, or ’No, I can’t’. I’m looking forward to that race and deep down, if I do what I know I can do, if I execute everything perfectly, I’d have a really good shot.”
Schooling added that the taste of losing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swimming championships in March was added motivation to work harder and break the world record. “It’d be an amazing feat, it’s something that I really want and with that extra motivation, anything can happen,” he said.
Schooling is penciled in for the 50m fly, 100m fly, 200m fly and 100m freestyle at the international swim meet. The World Championships takes place from 23 to 30 July in Budapest, Hungary.
Schooling is in Singapore at the invitation of One Championship to be part of mixed martial artist Angela Lee’s entourage. Lee will be defending her title against Brazilian Istela Nunes at the Dynasty of Heroes card on Friday (26 May) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
At a ONE Championship event on Thursday evening where Lee was introduced, Schooling was asked if he would take up mixed martial arts. “As a hobby, yes, but I would not want to fight professionally. I think I’d get killed,” he said with a laugh.