Stung after being shafted out of the medal podium in his pet event on Thursday (15 November), Joseph Schooling was intent on making amends on the final day of the Singapore leg of the Fina Swimming World Cup series on Saturday.
And while a gold medal still proved elusive for the 23-year-old swim star, he at least managed to earn medals and break national records in both his Saturday short-course events at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
First, he picked up a bronze in the 50m butterfly final in 22.40sec, finishing just behind winner Vladimir Morozov of Russia (22.17) and runner-up Michael Andrew of the United States (22.32). It was the second time in a day that he set the national mark in this race – in the morning heats, he had clocked 22.76 to break Teong Tzen Wei’s 2017 national record of 23.52.
Surprise backstroke national mark
Then in the final event of the evening, the butterfly specialist surprised the 2,800-strong crowd by swimming the backstroke leg in the 4x50m mixed medley relay for Singapore with teammates Roanne Ho, Teong and Amanda Lim.
He then surprised even himself when he clocked 24.08sec to break Quah Zheng Wen’s 2014 national mark of 24.56, helping Singapore (1min 42.21sec) to a silver medal behind Australia (1:39.69).
He was certainly in a happier mood than on Thursday, when he came in only fourth in the 100m fly event. He laughed heartily when asked how he managed the backstroke record, and said, “I really don’t know. (National Training Centre head coach) Gary (Tan) asked me if I could do the backstroke, I said if it’s 50m and short-course, I’m there.
“Short-course sprints are all about underwater (work). I knew my swim wasn’t as good as my underwater so my underwater carried me in that race and I’m happy we won a medal for Singapore. A new national record in backstroke, I don’t know what to say other than it’s awesome.”
Better than Thursday’s performance
On a personal note, he was satisfied with his performance at the three-day meet, given that it is early in his training cycle for next year’s key events such as the World Championships in July.
“It felt way better than on Thursday,” he said. “Still lagging a bit, but for how I felt on Thursday, and then to come back, win a couple of medals and have a lot of fun with the fans, I’m happy.”
His presence at the meet – his first Swimming World Cup Singapore leg appearance since 2008 – certainly drew in the local crowd, and he is intent on taking part in the series again when he returns home next February after completing his academic education at University of Texas.
Focus turns on World C’ships and Olympics
On Saturday, the Swimming World Cup also crowned its 2018 overall champions, as Singapore was the last of the seven legs this year. The men’s overall champion went to Morozov, who was also the overall winner in the Asian cluster of the series. He earned cheques of US$150,000 and US$50,000 respectively for those efforts.
The 26-year-old has set his sights on doing better in long-course events such as the World Championships and the Olympics, as he has only one individual silver at a long-course World Championships – in the 50m freestyle in 2013.
He said, “I have always been better in the short-course than long-course because I’ve been training short-course my whole life. But I have been setting best times in long-course as well, and it’s a challenge I want to master.”
In the women’s competition, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu won the Asian cluster and US$50,000 in prize money, but Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was the overall champion, retaining the title she won from Hosszu last year.
However, the 25-year-old is unlikely to defend her title next year, as she is reducing her short-course competitions to concentrate on preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She said, “Next year will be all about preparing for the Olympics. I may swim in a few races but not travel like I have in these two years because I would miss too many long-course training and gym sessions. The Olympics is definitely more important.”