After a promising start to his National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swimming campaign, Singapore’s first Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling admitted that he needed to take time off from swimming in order to set bigger goals for himself.
During a media session on 24 March after his first day at the NCAA swimming and diving championships, Schooling said he had post-Olympic blues when he went back to school after his historic win in Rio. “First semester I didn’t swim. I was doing my own thing. I think Eddie (head coach Eddie Reese) was getting a little nervous,” he said.
He explained, “I started training midway through December. That was a break I needed. I was going nuts. It was like, swim, swim, swim, swim. That’s all we did for so many years. It took me a long time to achieve my goal and I think I needed to spend some time away from it, do other things.”
When he did miss swimming and returned to training in mid-December, the 21-year-old set some big goals for himself in the butterfly event, first at the ongoing short course NCAA meet, and then at the long course FINA World Championships in July. “I needed to miss swimming before I could be 100 per cent focussed on my next target. And my next target is to first win another national title, then after that long course-wise, my next goal would be to break the world record,” he said.
Schooling holds the NCAA record at 44.01s in the 100 yard butterfly, but admitted he was angry that American Tom Shields of UC Berkeley was the first to go below 44 seconds at the Short Course National Championships in December 2016. He has his eye on breaking Shields’ record on Friday (Saturday morning Singapore time).
Shields holds the American and US Open records at 43.84s. Schooling said, “43.84s is a serious time. I know I got a bit of flak when he was the first guy to go under 44. I was a little pissed off at that. I guess I got to be the first the first guy to go under 43 right? Might not be this meet but I’m definitely gunning for that record tomorrow.”
After winning the 100m butterfly in Rio in a new Olympic record of 50.39s, Schooling also has his eye on Michael Phelps’ world record of 49.82s and has not been coy about his intentions to break it in July.
Schooling credits his time away from the pool for giving him a better focus this year, although he declined to reveal details of what he did away from the pool apart from saying that he took a trip to Singapore last year. “You just got to take some time off swimming, forget about swimming and hang out with your friends,” he said. “I feel a lot fresher now compared to the past two years… You always want to be happy, always want to be laughing and that’s the key to success – being happy and enjoying your brothers around you.”