Joseph Schooling rarely disappoints, but Thursday (15 November) happened to be one of those occasions, as he could finish only fourth in the 100m butterfly race at the Singapore leg of the annual Fina Swimming World Cup short-course series at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
The 23-year-old, the reigning Olympic champion in the long-course version of the same race, clocked 51.05 seconds to finish behind winner Li Zhuhao of China (49.64sec), second-placed Australian Matthew Temple (50.60sec) and Belarus’ Yauhen Tsurkin, who was third (50.66sec).
While he was disappointed not to be among the medallists, he preferred to look at the big picture in the lead-up to 2019’s major events, such as the World Aquatics Championships in July.
“The result wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s early in the season and it gives me something to work towards,” he told The Straits Times after his race. “I wish I could have gone faster but that’s just where I am right now body-wise and that’s okay.”
Well short of his best
After winning two golds and two bronzes in August’s Asian Games, Schooling spent the following months finishing up his academic education at University of Texas. It was only in recent weeks when he stepped up his swim training and, coupled with flying back on Monday to race in such a short turnaround, he was well short of his best.
He said, “It’s the first time that I’ve had to come all the way from the US, and get up and race on such a short turnaround and I got to learn how to do that. I was happy with walking out and seeing the crowd go nuts, that was quite the highlight of my night.
“I could see myself swimming at more World Cups when I’m back permanently.”
Even Li, who came in second to Schooling in the 100m fly at the Asian Games in Jakarta, defended his rival’s performance, saying, “I’m aware that Joseph has just come back from America and is jet-lagged, so I’ve got to keep improving.”
World Cup record shattered
The first day of the Swimming World Cup saw a new World Cup record in the men’s 50m freestyle, set by Russia’s Vladimir Morozov. The 26-year-old, who leads the men’s overall table in the seven-leg series, clocked 20.48sec to improve on his own mark set in the previous leg in Tokyo by 0.01sec.
The women’s overall title has been contested between Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu since 2012, and the two great rivals picked up victories on Thursday. Sjostrom edged out Hosszu in the 100m individual medley to win by 0.07sec, and also claimed the 50m freestyle title. Hosszu won the 200m butterfly race to stay second behind the Swede in the overall standings.
The Swimming World Cup continues until Saturday, and Schooling will compete in the 50m fly and 4x50m mixed medley on the final day of competition. As Singapore is the final leg of the series, the men’s and women’s overall winner will be crowned on Saturday too.
The series is in the short-course format, conducted in a swimming pool that is configured for 25 metres per lap instead of 50 metres for the more common long-course format.
Tickets are available from $30 per day at www.sportshubtix.sg. Heats will be held at 9.30am and the finals at 6.30pm each day.